What $1 billion buys you at the G8 - Macleans.ca

What $1 billion buys you at the G8

FESCHUK: I’ve been to the G8, and I’m here to tell you it’s more entertaining than ‘The Bachelor’

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Illustration by Taylor Shute

We are spending more than $1 billion to host this month’s G8 and G20 summits, which Liberal MP Mark Holland has taken to describing as “the most expensive 72 hours in Canadian history.” Obviously he never saw Brian Mulroney’s mini-bar bill after Meech collapsed.

Think of the upside, Mark Holland: dignitaries! And entourages! If a life-threatening crisis were to break out, we could rely on the wonks to recommend a working group to investigate creating a sub-committee to formulate a draft interim policy pursuant to—oops, we’re already dead.

The G8 Summit (aka The Good One) will be held in Huntsville, Ont., at the Deerhurst Resort. I spent some time at Deerhurst last year and have disturbing news for the international community. Extensive efforts at carbon dating indicate my hotel room was last decorated in 1978. This may seem irrelevant, but don’t underestimate the ability of the decor to guide the summit toward the ethos of the 1970s, as manifested in wage-and-price controls and the German chancellor adopting Farrah Fawcett hair. The curtains alone had me craving fondue for days.

Here’s how the billion dollars we’re spending on summitry breaks down:

Pomp: $500 million. Epaulets? Surprisingly expensive.

Circumstance: $400 million. (We got a good deal on circumstance.)

Security: $75 million. At least half that sum will be devoted to ensuring world leaders are at all times protected from terror (i.e. the close-ups in Sex and the City 2).

Ambiguity: $20 million. You can’t write the G8 final communiqué without a fresh supply of vague. Why risk vowing that you “will” achieve a goal when, with the power of vague, you can pledge to “work toward” it? Back when I was a government speech writer, I gave this type of commitment a name: it was a promise-ish—a “promish.” In 2005, for instance, the G8 promished to fight climate change by “taking the dialogue forward.” And today, five years later, global warming has been defeated. (That’s the truthesque.)

Making sure Stephen Harper doesn’t miss another G8 group photo: $2 million. Twenty bucks for an alarm clock and $1,999,980 for a team of stout men to follow around the Prime Minister carrying a porta-potty.

Loot bags: $40. Everyone goes home with Twizzlers and a super ball.
Food safety: $1 million. This is actually true: we are spending $1 million to keep safe the food that will be served to G8 leaders. And you know what—I think I could do it for less. A million seems like a lot. Are we renting the tuna its own safe house?

I guess the costs add up. They’re probably hiring food tasters to ensure the meals served to G8 leaders aren’t poisoned. Attention G8 leaders: I will taste your meals FOR FREE. I’ll even cut up your ham just how you like it, Mr. Harper.

Or there’s another solution: mice. During the 2008 Olympics, the Chinese used mice to detect impurities in meals being served to athletes and officials. The animals were fed milk, alcohol, rice and a variety of other foods. They ate and ate and ate for weeks and the whole thing cost, like, 40 bucks—plus $5 for more mice when the first ones exploded.

I think the reason regular folks are cheesed about the cost of the summits is that, as taxpayers, we get no apparent benefit. If world leaders want to continue to meet in style every year, they need to give something back to the people. By which I mean they need to turn the summit into a reality show.

I’ve been to the G8 (when I worked for Paul Martin) and I am here to tell you that nothing on network television tops the real-life sight of Tony Blair fast-walking down a hallway, arms pumping, to avoid having to talk to Bob Geldof. And remember when George W. Bush got all frisky with Angela Merkel, squeezing her shoulders while she made the “Get it off! GET IT OFF!” face? More entertainment than five seasons of The Bachelor.

So here’s the deal, G8 leaders. Pull back the curtain. Welcome in the cameras. Show us the behind-the-scenes stuff like heated Middle East policy arguments and Silvio Berlusconi hitting on all the waitresses. Do that and we’ll continue forking out billions so you get your military-band welcomes and your motorcades and your bunk beds (Cameron and Clegg only). We promish.