Timing is everything: G20 security bill was so massive because cops were given “short notice”

Timing is everything: G20 security bill was so massive because cops were given “short notice”

Police in downtown Toronto during the G20 conference in June 2010 (Image: Matthew Grey, The Toronto Globalist)

In the seemingly endless merry-go-round that is the G20 blame game, we’ve been presented with numerous scapegoats. Was the huge bill the fault of Toronto police chief Bill Blair? Or did the provincial government (including Dalton McGuinty) do more damage with the confusion over police powers? What about the feds, who boosted the cost of the G20 because they dropped it in Canada’s largest city on short notice? Yeah, maybe that last one. According to the Toronto Star, the short timeline the city was given to prepare for the G20 is one of the biggest reasons for the massive security bill.

“We acted on short notice,” said chair Alok Mukherjee. “I was making arrangements with other police forces right up until the last minute to send officers to Toronto. You can imagine the cost of last-minute flight bookings from, for example, Newfoundland and British Columbia. It gets costly very quickly.”

Time constraints also meant there was no time to put many expensive contracts up for tender as the board normally requires, he said. In some cases, the service was forced to buy from companies solely because they could meet the June deadline.

Blair was grilled in a House of Commons committee last week about how he spent 60 per cent of the total cost — about $74 million — on the 10,000 officers on duty during the G20.

NDP critic Pat Martin says that the numbers still don’t add up, and accuses Blair of giving “no evidence of any belt tightening or any legitimate effort to try and contain costs.” In all honesty, it’s hard to imagine anyone, police or not, “containing costs” when there was a billion taxpayer dollars being sloshed around. Of all the outrages of the G20, the fact that the police might have been less than perfect in their accounting doesn’t rank quite as high in our minds as, say, ripping off an amputee’s prosthesis. Maybe we’ll draw that card in the next round of the blame game.

• Staggering G20 bill blamed on timing [Toronto Star]