Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Cost of Security

I chanced upon a copy of the Monday edition of the International Herald Tribune, and on page 18, there was a news story with this headline ”Canadians dismayed by meeting costs”! I certainly don’t believe anybody will be happy about meetings because they generally degenerate into talk-shops – if I was to base on my own personal experience. And I am talking about the personal cost of time and effort I make to meetings but yet, don't see productive outcomes that are beneficial.

Anyway, the newspaper was referring to the costs of holding the G-8 and G-20 summits in Ontario, Canada. The latest government estimate is $897 million for the three days of summitry. That comes to about $12 million per hour!

Don Davies, a New Democratic Party member of the Canadian Parliament said, “The cost of these summits is completely out of whack and extravagant and exorbitant”.

Mark Holland of the Liberal Party called the conference “the most expensive 72 hours in Canadian history”.

The escalating costs of these meetings can be attributed to the Battle in Seattle, the WTO summit meeting in 1999 in which violent street protests led to 600 arrests and $3 million in property damage. And not to mention, the ever-present terrorist threats.

One has to wonder if any government should be given a blank check to protect leaders and at what cost? Should Canada deploy 20,000 soldiers, intelligence agents and police officers for security? Is there wisdom behind this massive mobilization of forces – in this specific case, they represent about 13 percent of the nation’s police officers and troops – just so that government leaders can meet in relative safety? Can we absolutely guarantee security for these leaders?

I reckon we should cease to coddle and cosset our political leaders. Political office like any other job carries its own set of risks – it comes with the territory. While we should provide the necessary security – let’s not go overboard and turn a meeting venue into something akin to an impregnable fortress! I reckon we can easily replace politicians but it is never easy to replace the ordinary citizen’s sense of freedom and liberty when he or she finds himself/herself in a closely guarded environment as we now find in the city of Toronto.

Worse, if a show of force – as demonstrated by the need for a large body of security minders – is for the purpose of feeding a leader’s egoistical sense of power. If we buy the idea of servant leadership, we will accept that leaders are not gods or demi-gods, but just ordinary human beings doing their national duty and serving their citizenry.

European champions Spain survived a stern test from neighbours Portugal to book their place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup through David Villa's goal (63).

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