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June 25, 2010

Is Protesting Obsolete? Perspective on the G20

POLITICS - There are five main issues that will be discussed this year during the G20 meeting in Toronto, Canada (which will have 34 leaders from around the world attending and should technically be called the G34). Outside thousands of protestors will be gathered, but what exactly are they protesting?

1. Climate Change and the Environment: Brazil and Germany are leading the discussion on the topic of climate change initiatives and cutting greenhouse gases, but Canadian PM Stephen Harper wants to avoid this topic as much as possible. Harper wants this topic removed from the agenda so G20 leaders can focus on the economy instead. Thankfully other countries which have more to lose from climate change are forging ahead and ignoring Stephen Harper's protests.

Ergo: Protestors at the G20 will be protesting against Stephen Harper's lack of attention to the environment. Thus they will supporting the initiatives of visiting countries that support fighting climate change.

2. Sustainable Economic Growth: Recovery is still fragile in the United States, Germany and Italy. In Canada our economy is growing so strongly we're raising interest rates and Stephen Harper now wants to cut back on government spending. The American housing and mortgage crisis is still hurting but slowly healing so an interest rate hike in the USA could cause a dreaded "double dip". China and other "Asian tigers" want to boost their domestic demand, which is good for everyone else because it means that Asia can stand on their own two feet and don't need to be stealing jobs from North America.

Ergo: Protestors are upset about losing jobs to companies in Asia and government inability to fix the economy quickly.

3. Financial Sector Reform: In the wake of trillion dollar bank bailouts in the United States and Europe many countries now want to charge banks a tax to pay back the money given to them by taxpayers. In Canada we didn't have any bank bailouts, but we did help General Motors and Chrysler during their financial crisis last year. Britain, Germany and France say Yes to the proposed international bank tax. Canada and Japan say No.

Ergo: Frankly I don't think protestors care about the bank tax. They're more upset at seeing rich bankers getting millions of $$$ in bonuses which were paid using taxpayer dollars.

4. Austerity and Cutting Back: Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal want to tighten their belts, balance their budgets and restore confidence in their economies. The end result would be debt repayment and slower economic growth in those countries. Canada did that during the mid-1990s and our economy soared as a result.

Ergo: Not a lot to protest here. Probably a good idea, but the difficult question is what do they cut back on to make sure their budget is balanced, doesn't upset the population and doesn't cause a "double dip".

5. The Value of the Yuan: The United States and other countries wallowing in debt want China to allow the undervalued yuan (China's currency) to appreciate more. China's economic growth right now is so strong it wouldn't hurt them to slow down the pace a bit and allow other countries to recover and become sustainable again.

Ergo: Again, not much to protest here. This is a good idea.

The Protestors

The weird thing is a lot of protestors who show up at the G20 will be ignored and penned into areas where they can't really do much. Police will spray them with water cannons, damage their ears with LRADs and the rest of us will all scratch our heads as to why the security bill costed Canadians $1.1 billion.

If anything its that $1.1 billion spent on security that many Canadians are talking about and upset about. Last year in Pittsburgh the security bill was a mere $18 million. Prime Minister Stephen Harper won't even explain what the $1.1 billion in security costs were for.

The biggest previous security bill for a G20 meeting was in Japan in 2008, at a price of $124 million USD.

Some of the $1.1 billion price tag has been explained, but there is still another $930 million that is unaccounted for. Where did that money go?

The 19,000 security personnel (mostly police brought from all over Canada) accounts for a very small percentage of the security budget. Their numbers is only 4.8 times bigger than the 4,000 used last year in Pittsburgh. At the price for Pittsburgh's security it should only be costing Canada $80 million for security.

We also spent another $90 million tearing up streets, building security fences, removing garbage cans and bicycle racks and making sure the security zone around the Toronto Convention Centre would be "safe". What happened to the other $930 million?

Note: $930 million is enough money to build 5 new large military bases.

Or give 93 different hospitals each a $10 million renovation and upgrade.

Or train and hire a thousand new doctors to reduce wait times.

There are many different things that would have been far less wasteful than whatever we're apparently squandering this money on.

And what about the non-security budget? Remember the Fake Lake they built? We still have yet to see all the money which was wasted on non-security items like wining and dining 34 groups of foreign dignitaries. The combined cost of the G20 is probably $1.5 billion or more.

All this money dedicated towards keeping protestors out and silencing them. The head of CSIS recently admitted they're not worried about a terrorist attack. The chances of a terrorist getting inside the security zone is so remote its considered well night impossible. Fort Knox would be easier to break into.

But protesting these things won't do a damn thing. The elites inside the buildings look outside and just see a bunch of crazy hippies who apparently have nothing better to do. They might not even see them at all. Protesting doesn't work anymore, which is why some people have opted for violence instead because that is the only way to get their message heard.

The problem is that violence is the wrong message. It drowns out the intent of the message.

A better way to protest would be if we shut down the city entirely for 3 days. A general strike, everyone blocking the roads, the subways, everything. These old methods of using placards and singing slogans... they're just plain obsolete.

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