The Globe, Star, Post, Canadian Press, CBC and CTV take turns pointing out their favourite expenditure lines from the G8 and G20 reports. The government commends itself on its transparency in this regard.
The matter, rather predictably, led this morning’s QP scrimmage. Here’s the exchange between Ralph Goodale and John Baird.
Goodale: Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have saddled Canadians with a $54 billion deficit, a deficit which began before, not because of, but before there was any recession. So many Canadians were appalled to learn how this government has squandered $85,000 on snacks at just one hotel for G20 high rollers, $300,000 on bug spray, $14,000 on glow sticks, $2 million to rent 37,000 cars, and all of that just for two days. What is the justification for this orgy of excess?
Baird: Mr. Speaker, let me first congratulate the member for Wascana on his appointment as deputy leader of the opposition. Let me also say this about Canada hosting the G8 and the G20. We are very proud of our accomplishment of these two summits that were put together, back-to-back, in an unprecedented fashion. We have said from the beginning that a majority of these costs are for security. We had some 20,000 security personnel there to keep all those attending the summit safe and to ensure that the people in that region and the city of Toronto were. We think they did an outstanding job. The violence and destruction we saw there was the example of why we needed such stringent security.
Goodale: Mr. Speaker, the government is anything but transparent. It did not divulge these embarrassing $200 million in expenses voluntarily. It was forced to do so by the Liberal MP for Pickering—Scarborough East, and there is still more than $1 billion in additional spending yet to be revealed. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, for example, failed to answer anything. When will the government come clean with full disclosure on all the expenses, and how much of the non-security spending was sole-sourced, without tender, without competition, against every rule in the book?
Baird: Mr. Speaker, let me say this. We had an important responsibility to host the world. I often look for guidance to a former member of this place. He said: Well listen, it’s part of our responsibilities. We’re members of the G8. Now it’s turned into the G20. We cannot refuse. It’s part of our responsibilities. We have obligations as a country. We have obligations to fulfill them. Obviously this money is flowing into our economy and this will increase Canada’s prestige. Who said that? It was the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien.
Goodale: Mr. Speaker, he was talking about money flowing in, not money flowing out. Typical Canadian families are struggling to meet their living costs. Household debt is the highest in the western world. Families are worried they cannot afford child care, elder care, education or decent pensions, and they see their government blowing $16 billion on untendered stealth fighters, $10 billion on bigger jails, $6 billion on corporate tax giveaways, and $1.3 billion on a G20 photo op with $400,000 for high-end porta-potties. How can the Conservatives be so out of touch?
Baird: Mr. Speaker, the deputy leader of the opposition is himself a former minister of finance. He knows that job creation and economic growth must be a priority for government. I have here a press release that was issued by the Department of Finance. It says: The Minister of Finance today rejected calls to roll back corporate tax reductions, saying that the government’s tax reduction plan has produced significant economic and social benefits for all Canadians…the true benefits of tax cuts, namely, jobs and economic growth. Who was the minister of finance who said this? It was the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, the member for Wascana.