The Bull Meter: Michael Ignatieff on what got done at the G8/G20 summits

'Name one thing that got solved at the G8/G20 summit'? We've got two.

[mac_quote person=”Michael Ignatieff” date=”March 28, 2011″]Name one thing that got solved at the G8/G20 summit. We got nothing done. It wasn’t just that it cost a billion dollars, it wasn’t just that it shut down a whole city, it was that we didn’t get anything done for Canada, for the people in the world who look to our leadership to get something done.[/mac_quote]

[mac_bull score=”3″]

Okay, we’ll bite. In fact, we’ve got two things for Ignatieff: there was progress, however modest, on both maternal and child care efforts and with fiscal reform.

John Kirton, director of the G8 Research Group and an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto, says Ignatieff is glazing over some rather important achievements in dismissing the summits. The G8 summit in Muskoka notably managed to secure $7.3-billion to fund the maternal and child health initiative. That figure increased to $40-billion three months later at a UN Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York. “By not spending the money on hosting the summit,” says Kirton, “we would not have raised those funds.”

Meanwhile, the G20 summit in Toronto had one job: to stop the euro crisis by convincing markets that indebted nations were serious about cutting their deficits. This was achieved, in part, with the so-called “Toronto Consensus,” which saw developed nations agree to halve their deficits by 2013. While the Irish and Portuguese debt crises that followed the summit rendered the Toronto Consensus somewhat obsolete, Kirton says “it could have been a lot worse.”

Roland Paris, director of the Centre for International Policy and professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa, is more critical of the Toronto summit. While he says there was modest progress made on global health and financial reform, the Harper government went too far in trumpeting the successes of the G8/G20 summits. But Paris agrees with Kirton that Ignatieff’s assessment is lacking. “It’s fair to highlight the disparity between the enormous costs and limited accomplishments of these summits,” he says. “It’s not correct to say that they achieved ‘nothing.'”

Heard something that doesn’t sound quite right? Send quotes from the campaign trail to and we’ll tell you just how much bull they contain.


The G20 Toronto Summit Declaration

G8/20 Research Group (University of Toronto)

Centre for International Policy Studies (University of Ottawa)

Looking for more?

Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.