Let’s get this out of the way off the top, while we’re waiting for some real news. I’ve now had the opportunity to see the infamous “fake lake,” tucked away in a corner of the cavernous Interantional Press Centre. As one of the first to fly off the handle over this without first checking my facts, let me be one of the first to confess this is a total non-story.
It’s not an “indoor lake,” as the first story I read suggested. It is a reflector pool, about the size of a backyard swimming pool, only no more than two inches deep. There can’t be more than 10 gallons of water in it, tops. It is bordered by a small wooden platform simulating a dock, with Muskoka chairs casually strewn about. There’s a bank of canoes on either side, and a large screen showing some quite breathtaking high-def footage of Canadian lakeland scenes. And that’s it.
It’s not extravagant in the slightest. Modest would be closer to the mark. The government puts the cost at about $57,000, which sounds about right: about what it would cost to finish your basement. Or to be precise, it represents just over two 100,000ths of one per cent of federal spending. All in all it’s rather a pleasant spot, a small oasis of calm and comfort away from the conference churn, and shows every sign of being a hit with the foreign press. A few minutes of that footage is bound to persuade more than a few of them to want to return, or to tell the folks back home.
It is, in short, a perfectly acceptable, if hardly vital, use of public funds, and should never have become a subject of controversy. The media got rolled on this one, the opposition ran away with it, and we all ought to be ashamed of ourselves.