Let me take you back to more civilized days in political summits when the G8 met in Toronto in June, 1988.
It was the final night and I as Editor of the Toronto Sun had been invited to a farewell bash. And so I found myself sharing a table with three men, one of whom I knew because he had been security for a premier. I had spent countless hours with him leaning against walls in several countries, exchanging muttered curses over the more inane ceremonies.
Turned out that this was a summit of sorts too because the three had headed the RCMP, OPP and Metro Police operations for the summit.
There was a big media gripe that summit about a guy who returned home from a hunting trip and as he carried his rifle into his house, a helicopter spotlight lit him up and cruisers swooped up and police pinned him to his driveway.
"Just how far do you guys go?" I grumbled. And one said: "We'll do whatever we think we can get away with."
I've never forgotten that. That top cop was outlining what he considered was one of the fundamentals of policing. It was up to the courts and the politicians and the media and the public to push back when he went too far in the pursuit of crooks or even just to guard a clutch of leaders.
The four previous summits held in Canada were weenie roasts compared to what is being done under a Conservative government that is not conservative. The excuse is that this is a chance to show Canada off to the world. Sure, it is. For several million, you could bring in the travel press and get a lot more bang for your buck that a billion bucks wasted on pols.
I will not waste your time by detailing all the obscene wastes of public funds, the trampling of basic rights and the disregard for reality demonstrated by the security forces involved in this summit. We have been reading about them for weeks. They sound like a deranged Monty Python skit.
There are so many, it is a wonder that some of us don't vomit as we scan the latest news about three-metre-high security fences, store owners having to close shop, condo residents having to endure security just to go home etc.
Just imagine what could be done with that $1 billion in wastage. In fact, wouldn't it have been wonderful if it wasn't collected in the first place. And yet we waste a billion on a PR stunt where little real business will be conducted and any statements were precooked a month ago.
Each decade brings new excesses in security. Premiers and prime ministers have gone from one guard on routi
ne days and a couple of cruisers when they go to a hotel to shutting down the street outside the hotel and even closing highways like 427.
The leaders often aren't comfortable with the cocoons but they go along with it and then their successors aren't given a choice.
I remember a Mountie pushing my wife aside in a Royal York dining room so that PET could pass. "Do that again and I'll deck you," I yelled. Trudeau, walking mere feet away, indicated that I had made a reasonable response. Today, I guess, several decades later, I would end up on the floor and then in custody, getting bruised in the process to teach me a lesson.
Press credentials often aren't a shield. In fact, we often are used to shield the politicians, so terrorists have to shoot over us.
Most of my anger is reserved for all the petty anarchists and professional demonstrators who are the justification for the security. If these yahoos didn't exist, we wouldn't have to waste all this money and energy. Many have little real insight into the real worlds of politics, trade and business, so their silly signs, anarchist agendas and amateurish chants are like paint blisters on an aircraft carrier. I would prosecute every demonstrator for every act of civil disobedience because there's plenty of opportunity to make your views known in this world without trying to harm or shout down those who took the trouble to get elected.
But there is no justification for the Ontario government to suspend the basic right of you and me not to be hassled by police just because we happen to be close to a security fence. There are many who came to live in Canada to escape cops stopping them and demanding identification because they felt like it.
The crazed over-reaction of our police to summit security is rooted in the desire to avoid being embarrassed in front of other police forces if a major incident happened here. I remember going to a royal function and being stunned by all the police on the streets of Toronto. I saw the police chief and said he must have every cop on duty. Why? He was not evasive or apologetic. "I don't want to be known as the police chief of the city where the Queen or any royal was hurt or even killed," he said.
The only good thing about the G8/G20 embarrassing summit is that it is so costly and so intrusive to the life of a large downtown that the politicians may come to their senses and start saying no to such dumb ideas as fencing off downtowns to keep the cattle, I mean the politicians, from the people.
The next summit should be held on a boat, perhaps in North Korean waters. And the rest of the world could enjoy their summers.
After the party was over and the windows fixed, there is confusion about who did what to whom. Yet two things are certain. A big city's downtown is a dumb and expensive place to stage a summit. And demonstrators really don't care about issues. They just want to preen in the media as they burn and trash and act like pretend anarchists with rabies.
I feel sorry for the silly kids who got caught up by the thugs and didn't realize that with all those cops brimming with a mixture of doing your duty and bravado, just being in the vicinity was asking for trouble.
Will we ever get the truth about the burning cruisers and whether they were just decoys? Why could media cameras capture the vandalism but not the cops? And why is it that a few cops always use these occasions to harrass or bash some reporters? Do they really suffer from permanent media envy, like boys looking at a man's penis?
I just wish it had never happened, with all its hype and costs, that Harper and captive cabinet stopped elevating themselves on our dime.