Similiar Summits, Entirely Different Bills
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Similiar Summits, Entirely Different Bills

During the 1988 G7 Summit, world leaders held high-level meetings at the Toronto Hunt Club. Photograph by Dave MacIntyre from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

G20/G8 summiteers are arriving in Toronto by the planeload. Considering that Toronto acted as the backdrop for the fourteenth annual Group of Seven Summit in June 1988, this one should be old hat.
Comparing the G7 in 1988 to the current G20, some similarities are apparent. The Convention Centre was made impenetrable then; the Convention Centre is made impenetrable now. Security was a headache then; security is a headache now. Same goes for the chain link fencing, the protests, and believe it or not, the fake lake. One glaring difference—besides Peter Mansbridges’ noticeable hair loss—is what some might call a spending spree, one on the order of a billion dollars.
Leading up to the June ’88 summit, which saw high-level meetings held at both the Toronto Convention Centre as well as at the Toronto Hunt Club, the media was agog over mounting expenses. In hindsight, it appears the government of Brian Mulroney actually practiced restraint: the cost of security for that three-day summit was a quaint six million dollars (though all figures from the 1988 summit are in 1988 dollars). This time around, security fencing alone is estimated to be five and a half million dollars.
The Metropolitan Toronto Police Force, as they were known pre-amalgamation, budgeted a little over $800,000 for the 1988 G7. (While we’re on the topic check out, this photograph from ’88, which shows a phalanx of police blocking the intersection of Dundas Street West and University Avenue. There really was a time when riot gear consisted of navy blue shirtsleeves, matching pants, a ball cap, and a billy club? Really?) Today, Toronto Police Services has a budget of $122 million to spend on security. If the amount seems exorbitant compared to spending for the 1988 summit, that’s because it is. Mind you, 1988’s $800,000 wasn’t put toward a bevy of surveillance cameras, an arsenal of sonic weapons, and numerous other protest-deterring devices.
The overall bill for the fourteenth G7 Summit in Toronto came in at a manageable twenty million dollars. The tab for the current G8/G20 surpasses all previous summits since the inaugural G6 was held in 1975.