There is a growing understanding that the G-summits are not only undemocratic (bad enough), but also unneeded, unwieldy and unproductive.
A recent Angus Reid opinion poll tells us that 74 percent of Canadians say the summits at the end of this week are ‘not too important’ or ‘not important at all’. 78 percent say the $1-billion-plus price tag for the summits is unjustified.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Given the recent ‘accountability scorecard’ report on the failure of the G8 to meet most of its past pledges, the Globe and Mail editorial board writes that, “If the G8 and G20 want to remain relevant, their declarations must be more than words.”
Adrien Veczan of the Canadian Press goes further when he wrote in Maclean’s magazine this past week that, “For a meeting that is supposed to make the world safer and more secure, the combined G8/G20 summit in Huntsville, Ont., and Toronto seems to entail an enormous amount of destruction and dislocation. All this outrageous cost and bother might be defensible if there was evidence summits on this scale are absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, there’s precious little evidence that this is the case.”
Veczan concludes, “Summits that began as informal get-togethers between like-minded friends have become unwieldy, expensive monstrosities. There’s no need to create a travelling mini-UN circus when less formal meetings can be much more effective. In the interests of sanity, we should make Toronto’s G20 summit the last of its kind.”
THE TORONTO STAR
The Toronto Star’s editorial board seems to agree and writes that, “Harper’s extravaganza ought to be seen as the high-water mark for these affairs. It’s time to curb the sheer scale, cost and disruption. Perhaps the leaders could task a handful of their 8,000 nimble-minded advisers with devising a way to meet on a smaller scale. There are options. Summits could be held at more easily protected sites. Secure châteaux, the United Nations, military bases, even cruise ships have been suggested. And the leaders could get by with far fewer hangers-on. Some travel with hundreds of staff. At root, the G8/G20 summits are about a handful of leaders pressing the flesh together. That needn’t cost the earth, or require legions of retainers. These affairs are sinking under their own weight. It’s time to lighten the load.”
And even in his defence of the summits as “worthwhile,” National Post columnist Conrad Black - someone not unfamiliar now with barbed wire fences - writes, “Of course a lot of it is pretentious nonsense: the platitudes, the staginess, the vapid communiques at the end (which have probably already been written). But this is one of the rites of passage as this country has made its way from the back to the front row of the world’s nations. Let’s just see these pompous meetings as a celebration of that.”
But where are the politicians on this?
Commenting on the fact that the federal government spent $46 million in Huntsville to beautify the area for the summit, when there is real poverty in First Nations communities like Sandy Lake, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath called the G8 summit the “height of hypocrisy… It is a disgrace.”
Jonas Gahr Støre, the foreign minister of Norway, wrote in the Ottawa Citizen in mid-April that, “The G20 is sorely lacking in legitimacy and must change.” He said, “The self-appointment of the Group of 20 represents, from the point of view of international law and multilateral principles, a major step backwards in the way international co-operation has occurred since the Second World War.”
French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner described the G8 this month as a “circus,” admitting that ministers sometimes wondered why they went to its meetings. He then said that the G8 “has had its time” and will “slowly disappear” in favour of a better organized G20. As host next year, France is expected to combine the G8 and G20 summits.
The Globe and Mail’s Campbell Clark reported in mid-June that, “The U.S., fatigued by so many summits, and their expanding lists of participants, is slated to host the G8 in 2012 – and might take the opportunity to kill off the smaller summit that always seems to grow.”
PETITION-DELIVERY BY CANOE
This coming Friday morning the Council of Canadians will attempt to deliver the ’scrap the summits’ message to the G8 - by canoe! More on this soon.
To join the Council of Canadians call to scrap the summits, please go to http://www.canadians.org/action/2010/scrap-summit.html. Add your voice to the messages being sent now and by canoe on Friday morning.
You can read Council of Canadians analysis at http://www.canadians.org.
The Maclean’s article is at http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/06/17/why-host-a-billion-dollar-photo-op-the-real-work-is-done-elsewhere/. The Globe and Mail article is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/g8-outreach-invitees-share-harpers-foreign-policy-priorities/article1602476/. The Toronto Star editorial is at http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/822024–the-sum-of-summit-folly.
Brent Patterson, Director of Campaigns and Communications, Council of Canadians
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