Security Costs for G8 and G20
June 1st, 2010 - 4:00am
Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Nickel Belt.
It is nice to have the opportunity to speak to this motion today. It relates to a hot-button issue that is hurting the government in the coffee shops across this land: the out of control spending on security for the upcoming G8 and G20 meetings in Huntsville and Toronto later this month.
If one were fortunate to have heard Cross Country Checkup this past weekend, one would have been able to pick up on the overwhelming outraged voices at the escalating costs of security for these meetings. Many of the callers were overcome by sticker shock with the huge sum that security in Canada's biggest city for these events will cost. Some callers detailed what items could be purchased or what measures could be pursued with such a vast amount of money. Others spoke of our record deficit and the lingering effects of the economic crisis.
A very few were completely supportive of the cost of security for these events, while others admitted that there needs to be spending on security for these events but felt that perhaps this too had snowballed out of control under the government's obsession with George Bush-style security concerns.
That is probably closest to our opinion. We are not saying that there should not be security for these events. We are not saying that there is no reason whatsoever to have these meetings. Our heads are not stuck in the sand on this issue but they are not up in the clouds like the government's either. One could say that we are not drinking the Kool-Aid that seems to flow freely over in the government lobby. That would be a reasonable way to characterize our position on today's motion and the issue of security at these kinds of events.
Perhaps it is merely a matter of perception that separates us from the Conservatives. We do not see terrorists around every corner or fall asleep at night worrying about some bogeyman-fueled crime spree either. Conservatives look at people who do not share their opinions and see the worst in these people. How many times has the Minister of Public Safety stood in this place and gone on about terrorists and petty thugs?
To hear the Conservatives speak, one would think there is a terrorist cell in every neighbourhood across the land waiting to lash out and send our lives into disarray. To listen to the Minister of Public Safety try to justify the incredible cost of security for these meetings, one would think that we are constantly under threat from these unsavoury individuals.
This is the hallmark of the current brand of the Conservatives. They are great at recognizing perceived threats that allow them to pursue their agenda and spread the public's money around to their supporters. In this case, it is for those in the private security business, the people who rent them the security fencing and provide the private security guards. They too share the view that we are just not safe.
However, the government will not protect us from real threats, such as the threat to our health from the eroding environment. It will not protect our communities in a meaningful way when they are left decimated by terrible policies in forestry or laid to waste by foreign owners who have no respect for the Canadian way of life that built companies like Inco.
For the majority of people in my constituency, this expenditure for security is yet another sign that the Conservatives are primarily interested in investors and not citizens. It is a government that will go out of its way to clear the path for any investor, to let them trample rights and long-standing covenants in pursuit of the only virtue Conservative seek: profit.
If people want to buy a company and change everything in the process or if people do not like the pension plan, they do not need to worry. They do not have to honour it. They can just lock out the employees or close down the operation, like Xstrata did, and sit on the resources until they can find people to work at slave wages with little or no additional compensation.
Those are the kinds of outcomes that are a result of the meetings that we are spending $1 billion to protect.
Mr. Richard Harris: We are back in the 1930s. Pat, tell her this is 2010.
Mrs. Carol Hughes: The member across is right. He is talking about what it was like in the 1930s and this is exactly where the government is trying to bring us. That is the kind of economy these G8 and G20 types most desire.
My constituency, which sits in the epicentre of our recent and ongoing financial crisis, cannot support this. We will not condone spending money to protect the interests of the companies that are going to war against the Canadian workforce and our way of life. We see this in Sudbury right now with Vale Inco. A lot of my constituents actually work there, as well as my husband, by the way.
We will not condone spending this kind of money while the government allows pensions to collapse or remain underfunded, all the while allowing companies off the hook for doing so. We will not condone spending outrageous sums to protect the elite while refusing to spend to protect the most vulnerable and those who have given their whole lives to build this country.
One of the ironies that will come out of the G8 and G20 meetings is that we will likely hear the call for reduced taxes for wealthy corporations and the investors that fuel them. We will hear how this will make them competitive and that they will be able to thrive with this advantage. Yet these champions of a world without corporate taxation or corporate responsibility will suck on the public teat the whole time, drawing money from every worker across this land and using it to protect themselves while they issue statements admonishing the same workers for expecting too much from the corporate elite. It is a theatre of the absurd.
Will Canadians come to accept the incredibly huge cost of security for these meetings? Will they forget about it over a hot, long summer? The government can only hope as much. The Conservatives are laughing on the other side because they do not think the money they are actually going to spend on this is a serious issue. This is a big issue for my constituents.
They know, too, that there is only so much that John Q. Public will take. They see the wounds piling up, the scar tissue from the outrageous behaviour of the former minister of state for the Status of Women and the way her husband attempted to sell access to the government's inner circle while successfully dodging drunk driving and hard drug charges that still fuels the chatter around the coffee pot. Will this be another black eye that refuses to fade for the government? Only time will tell.
I know this much. We have identified an opportunity for the Liberal Party to join us in actually standing up on behalf of all Canadians and telling the government that enough is enough. We have offered the Liberals the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is and truly stand up to the government and say no to items like the sale of AECL, the gutting of Canada's environmental impact assessment process and the after-the-fact lessening of the wholesale handover of the employment insurance fund that will allow profitable corporations in Canada to enjoy yet another round of tax breaks.
In many ways, that is what this motion is really about. It is about piling on to everyday Canadian taxpayers. It is about how the little guy will pay the freight yet again so that those with the most wealth and influence can move about freely and make arrangements to push through the remnants of the corporate global agenda. That is why there is so much outrage on this issue and why the government prays that the public has a short memory on this issue.
Of the many interesting ideas that were floated on the radio this past weekend, one was to arrange for a permanent site for these kinds of meetings, a site with the appropriate security built into it, a site that would allow these meetings to take place without having to inconvenience people who just want to go to work or a ball game, a site that would simply allow these meetings to take place.
One drawback of such an arrangement is that it would not make for the same kinds of photo ops. On one level, that is what these meetings amount to: groups of elite in expensive suits lining up to appear chummy before the camera so the people who cannot afford to put their children in hockey this year can have a flashy picture of the Prime Minister looking like the best pal of the chancellor of Germany. They can look at the picture and see the architects of the demise that has taken away our forestry jobs and the henchmen of the international investor movement who have paved the way for locked out and lost mining jobs.
It will show up time and again in Conservative advertising as they extol the virtues of our policy of bending over to accommodate the whims of the international market and the desires of corporate elite to control policy while refusing to participate in the heavy lifting of implementing it. It will make a great souvenir to remind them of the life they used to enjoy before the corporate elite excused themselves from having to participate in society.