Wednesday, May 26, 2010 1:06 PM

Michael Ignatieff vents spleen over summit costs

Jane Taber

Michael Ignatieff is attacking the ham-fisted way in which the Harper government is handling the upcoming G8 and G20 summits, saying the Conservatives have messed up the agenda, guest list, venues and security costs.

“We are three weeks away from the event where Canada will be on the world stage and I want to be proud of Canada,” the Liberal Leader told reporters Wednesday as his national caucus meeting wrapped up. “For now I am embarrassed.”

Mr. Ignatieff came out hard against the government over reports the security budget for the two summits, which will take place over only three days next month, has grown now close to $1-billion. This is 20 times the amount reported for the G20 summit in Britain last spring.

“These numbers are off the scales,” Mr. Ignatieff said, criticizing the Conservatives for a “total lack of proper management of public finances.”

“If you budget for $190-million how do you get to … $1-billion in a couple of months? Canadians can’t understand that. They got to get their guest list right. If they haven’t got their guest list right that shows bad planning.”

He then accused the Harper government of not getting the venue right, either. Initially, Huntsville was the venue for both summits but the larger G20 gathering was later moved to Toronto.

“First they said Huntsville and then said ‘oops, Huntsville’s too small and there are too many flies, let’s hightail it down to Toronto.’ This is the confusion we are talking about,” Mr. Ignatieff said.

As well there has been controversy over the agenda, which includes Mr. Harper signature initiative on maternal health. The Conservative government has said the initiative will not include funding for safe access to abortion, despite opposition from other G8 countries.

“I mean, get their act together,” Mr. Ignatieff said. “Canada is on the world stage. Let’s have a good show but for heaven sakes get your budget under control.”

The summit costs were not his only concern. The Liberal Leader was also critical of what called the “dumpster bill” – the huge 900 page, 2,200 clause omnibus legislation that implements the budget.

The bill, C-9, deals with more than just strictly budget matters. The Harper government has added other measures that ease environmental assessments and privatizes some postal services and parts of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

Mr. Ignatieff referred to these sorts of omnibus bills as “terrible public policy.”

“We think this is an abuse of Parliament,” he said. “These are the guys who prorogued Parliament; these are the guys who had to be ruled against by the Speaker [on disclosing Afghan detainee files]; these are the guys who are now saying we won’t have any staff show up [to Commons committees], which is again a flagrant defiance of Parliament – and then C-9 on top.

“The story line here is these guys don’t respect Parliament. … They put you into the ‘my way or the highway’ position.”

Despite his concerns and criticisms, the Prime Minister’s approach seems destined to work. Mr. Ignatieff’s Liberals will not vote against the budget bill in such numbers as to defeat the government and trigger an election.



commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre


Iggy, come on, Can't you use that brilliant academic brain of yours to think about something a little more substantive to Canadians?

When are you going to demonstrate some "vision" and "passion", how can such a wet blanket ever aspire to be the leader of Canada?

Iggy should take a close look at one of the most important issues in the recent English election and that was the issue of "Equal Parenting" after separation, also reform of family law.

Iggy would be wise to take note that 50% of Canadians are male, who have next to no legal rights in family court, and most Canadian Children grow up without their father.

Its time for a national culture of child neglect and abuse to end.