The financial costs of hosting the G8 and G-20 summits was the topic of several political debates and the target of criticism by local groups. The reasons for the large price for both summits were questioned by some politicians and local groups. Members of Parliament Olivia Chow and Mark Holland labelled the initially claimed budget of $1.1-billion for hosting the summits as “obscene” and “insane” while others argued that the money could have been used for long-pending municipal projects in Canada, such as Toronto’s Transit City light rail transit initiative. The security cost for the two summits was believed to be more expensive than the combined security costs of the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Vancouver andWhistler, British Columbia, which were $878 million. However, according to final calculations from the House of Commons of Canada as of October 2010, the exact cost for holding both summits was $857,901,850.31, making it less expensive than the security costs for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
It was initially claimed that the summits stand as the most expensive ever held, with security costs for the London and Pittsburgh G-20 summits in 2009 reported as having been only $30 millionand $18 million, respectively. However, the Canadian Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, stated in his official report on the costs of the Huntsville and Toronto gatherings that other countries had not been as open about the full price for the similar meetings held there and that the $18 million figure for the Pittsburgh summit was merely for overtime pay for local police and the cost of law enforcement brought from other regions. Ward Elcock, former Canadian Security Intelligence Service director and the chief of the Integrated Security Units for the Winter Olympics and the G8/G-20 summits, claimed that the security costs were in fact “comparable” with those of previous summits. Finance minister Jim Flaherty defended the security cost, claiming “it’s necessary to spend substantially to have security. It’s Canada’s turn, and it’s necessary that we either don’t take our turn or pay the appropriate price to have the security that is necessary so that everyone is safe here in Toronto.”
The creation of the $23-million international media centre, which included the $1.9 million Experience Canada pavilion and $57,000 artificial lake, at the Exhibition Place was widely opposed and criticized by politicians as “a waste of taxpayers’ money.” Criticism mainly targeted Stephen Harper and Canada’s Conservative government. Some protesting groups gave names to the artificial lake, such as “Harper’s Folly”. In a debate in the House of Commons, member Mark Holland said, “Instead of hosting world leaders, maybe the government should consider party planning for Lady Gaga.” According to some critics, the spending misled the objective of the summits into showing off Canada’s attributes instead of promoting the summits’ agendas.New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton condemned the Harper government, saying, “we’ve got a government here that has to create an artificial lake when Canada has more lakes than just about any other country in the world. It is the taxpayers who are going to end up at the bottom of the fake lake.” Transport minister John Baird defended the artificial lake, saying that the summits gave a “chance to showcase the very best that [Canada] has to offer.” Foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon said it was “normal practice” for a country to showcase its attributes while hosting world events. Harper also defended by saying, “This is a classic attempt for us to be able to market the country.” Upon its opening, the artificial lake received mostly negative reviews from Canadian reporters.
The summit’s economic impact was a major concern of a few local politicians and citizens. The municipal government of Toronto, as well as some public representatives, previously argued that the G-20 summit should be held at an isolated venue, such as the Exhibition Place, rather than the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which is located in the city’s central business district. As a result, during the aftermath of the protests during the summit, when several business and properties in Downtown Toronto were damaged, mayor David Miller urged the federal government to compensate for all the damages. It was initially outlined by the government that only damages to businesses within the security zone would be compensated. However, all damages occurred outside of the security zone. Some businesses in the downtown core suffered financially as a result. According to Member of Parliament John McCallum, “Stephen Harper made a huge mistake in holding this summit in downtown Toronto.” According to the Toronto Star, at least 40 stores in the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area suffered damages and one repair firm performed up to $750,000 in repairs.
On June 17, the United States Department of State issued a travel alert for Toronto, warning tourists of the expected traffic disruptions and potentially violent protests during the G-20 summit. The alert, which was expected to expire on the last day of the summit, stated that “Even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can become violent and unpredictable.” Toronto Mayor David Miller described the warning as an “over-reaction.”
During the summit, a few overseas reporters commented on Canada and the summits. A reporter of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) made positive remarks about Canada’s economy, saying “The Canadians, it seems, have answers for even the toughest puzzles and they are keen to share their strategies with the rest of the world. Why in this economy, we all want to be Canadian.” A writer in The New York Times made positive comments about the summits’ preparations and natural beauty of the Muskoka region. The Times of India and The Hindu commented on impacts on city life in Toronto due to the G-20 summit and the “unprecedented” security measures taken in Canada. A Reuters reporter, on the other hand, condemned the international media centre’s artificial lake.