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Canada: Here comes the G20

Toronto buckles down for some serious, and seriously expensive, hassle.

Canadians didn’t fail to see the irony: Money was being spent to build a fake lake in a pavilion practically on the shores of a real one — Lake Ontario. Harper’s socialist political rival, Jack Layton, called the affair “Fake Lake-Gate.” Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff dubbed it, “Lake Waste-a-ma-taxes.”

Harper defended the pavilion as a chance “to profile Ontario tourism to the world.”

The prime minister has also come under fire for balking at putting climate change on the official G20 agenda (he did so only after public pressure), for lobbying hard to kill a proposed bank tax — supported by the U.S. — to avoid further government bailouts, and for refusing to fund abortion as part of a maternal health initiative in developing countries.

Canada’s public safety minister, Vic Toews, defended the summit, insisting there are “certain things that can only be done face to face.” Yet anyone who has covered these events knows that whatever agreements emerge are largely hammered out by bureaucratic sherpas ahead of time.

So for many Canadians, the questions remain: Why hold a political meeting in the heart of a city if it means transforming it into an armed camp at a cost of $1 billion? Why not hold it on a military base, or a desert island? Why not opt for video-conferencing? Why hold a summit at all?