Here's a note: I work in downtown Toronto, right on the edge of the traffic control perimeter. Based on the reports on how things are most likely going to shake out, it looks like there's a good chance I will have to bring my passport to pass through the checkpoints. The prospect of needing my passport, the document that I use to transit national borders, to get around in my own fucking city alarms me greatly.
Summary: while the G20 summit in and of itself is not going to leave Toronto a smoking ruin, during it and a little while afterward, at least some of us will probably wish it had. The worst part, to my mind, is that there's absolutely no reason for it to have happened at all. I don't mean that the summit could have been held in Exhibition Place, an easily-secured and more isolated area that the city offered and the federal government rejected out of hand - I mean that it shouldn't have been held in this city, or, for that matter, any city.
This has long since escalated beyond photo-op to pure farce. One of the consistent narratives that Harper and the Conservatives have been spinning is that this is an opportunity to showcase Canada to the world - which is complete bullshit. All they're going to be "showcasing" is a lake that cost $2-million taxpayer dollars to build - money that could have gone to things that are, you know, actually worth something - and a city locked down behind security cordons, where not even kite-flying will be allowed. Because, you know, terrorists!! could strap a bomb to a kite! And... do something!
But that's the elephant in the room, isn't it? The insane depth of the security measures that will be going up in Toronto stem from one reason and one reason only - the threat of terrorism. If they really believe that there is a clear and present threat of a terrorist attack on the G20 summit, than in my opinion it shows only how utterly reckless and unconcerned with consequences the Conservatives are. Ultimately, though, whether the worst-case scenario comes to pass or it's just an issue of a few protestors or totally non-involved people getting beaten to death, the responsibility will fall at the feet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the others who buffaloed this summit through - and it's us, the people of Toronto, who will be left paying for it.
The idea of this being a vehicle to "showcase Canada to the world" is, in my mind, likewise flawed; it's entirely the wrong model for a summit with as much importance as the G20. In my mind, the appropriate comparison should be that of a behind-deadline writer being locked in a hotel room by his publisher until he produces enough copy. We're living in turbulent times, and it is the responsibility of the heads of government to look at the hard questions and to make some difficult decisions, not bask in the light of a media circus.
Because there is an alternative. I just wish that the people behind the summit had considered it before they decided it would be an awesome idea to throw the locks on Toronto.
The Holland America Line cruise ship MS Zuiderdam passes Vancouver's Brockton Point Lighthouse as it sails through Burrard Inlet, bound for the Pacific Ocean - June 12, 2010
While I was in Vancouver I saw two cruise ships making for the Lions Gate Bridge and the open ocean, the Coral Princess and MS Zuiderdam. Seeing as how cruises don't generally go up the St. Lawrence, these things aren't exactly a common sight in Toronto Harbour, and neither are they of a scale that can be appreciated from photographs alone. These things are literally floating cities, and I had no idea that something so absolutely massive could move so fast.
Wouldn't it be far more straightforward, not to mention less taxing on whatever hapless cities get saddled with the dubious privilege to host this wonderful summit in years to come, to just create a meeting place for future G20 summits and the like? Wouldn't it be easier to, bluntly, pack them all off on a ship? I mean, it's not as if we'd have to worry about the world leaders getting "out of touch" with the people - they're not in touch with them now, and the bigass security fences around the summit perimeter here are hardly going to encourage any extra awareness.
Hosting the G20 on a cruise ship would enable a decrease of the security overhead - it's easier to secure something floating than the downtown core of a city - and it could be put in the middle of a carrier battle group for the duration. There's no way that renting out such a ship for a few days would be more expensive than Toronto's security tab. The way things are going, we're getting to the point where we need to lock our leaders in a room until they come up with workable solutions. This way, even if they do manage to jimmy the door, they'd have to swim for it. Hell, it might be easier for them to just make decisions and do things. Shock!