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Pakistan: Double click: Toronto's finest hour?

Pakistan, June 27 -- Toronto is being invaded. 5000 police officers will be taking over the streets of Toronto next weekend, wearing guard shields, fully armed and dangerous and a threat for those who'd dare cross their path.

Because the city which would love to be the new 'happening' venue for the world's political and social affairs is hosting the G20 summit in core downtown. What's more, the nearby town of Huntsville in Ottawa - approximately five hours away from Toronto where the famed Muskoka Lake is situated - will simultaneously hold the G8 summit two days prior to when the great 20 statesmen descend on Toronto.

Scheduled for June 26 and 27, the G20 has threatened to paralyse the city, take over people's rights to work, drive and even walk! And typical of the jittery Canadians - who feel threatened if someone happens to stand too close to them in a coffee shop cue - the brouhaha rising from all quarters of the city which is a congested mix of many cultures and tempers has now become deafening.

There's a week left and already so much has been said, written and shouted out on the streets that I wonder what they'll report when the summit actually takes place.

A lot of the media noise made interesting, at times even hilarious, reading. While the humour was not intended, it has regaled observers like me who love to just watch these agitated souls debate at the slightest. From how much government loan is good enough for a student to have three items in one meal to how much space should a cyclist be allowed on the main road, the average Torontonian loves to argue and say her/his two bits worth on everything. They must have an opinion.

So when the government announced its CAD $1-billion security plan for the city of Toronto, along with the multiple road closures pre and during the G8/G20, there was enough of a roar to wake every sleeping lion, criticising the waste of taxpayers' money.

Incidentally, security is not the only area where the government's foolhardy spending has been directed.

A $2-million fake lake has been built inside the Toronto media centre as a marketing technique to promote foreign investment in Canada. A fake-lake in a country with the most and the largest lakes would be difficult to anyone to swallow and the opposition is having a field day adding its share of insults. The Liberals, who have come out with an ad campaign attacking the summit preparations has called the G8/G20 summits a '$1-billion boondoggle'.

To be held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in the heart of downtown where the Union subway station provides the central stop for all inter-city train connections, the twin summits will literally cease all other business agendas of the city dwellers.

A 3.5 kilometres area of the downtown core that contains the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, as well as the CN Tower will be fenced during the summit.

Regular street walkers will have to show a very valid reason accompanied by a very valid ID for entering the zone. With the latest news coming in, the cost of hosting the G8 and G20 summits now stands at almost $1.2 billion and further expenditure is likely.

But that is not all that the summit organisers are worrying about. Like all such gatherings, the worry of law enforcement agencies is that militants might be planning their own covert operations. And one of the brand of terrorists that is expected to disrupt the peace goes by the name of Black Bloc, a group of revolutionaries who believe that throwing rocks at the police is a justifiable, even moral, response to the violent consequences of G20 policies.

The Toronto police Chief has said that $82 million of the budget will be going towards covering the salaries of 6,000 policing staff and about $40 million is for protective clothing, such as gas masks and helmets, as well as equipment such as radios and vehicles, and the establishment of a command centre facility.

As for myself, I am quite happy to have a day off on Friday and maybe even on Thursday, and I love western paranoia! Since major highways will be blocked/cleared for security, commute is being kept at a minimum and people are told to stay in-doors rather than outdoors. But Torontonians don't like being 'told' to do anything. Even in cases of storms when they are 'told' that there would be traffic delays, they blame the weatherman for upsetting their plans!

With rumours spreading of summit leaders positioning their submarines in nearby waters, and of destroyers taking their station in Lake of Bays, Toronto dwellers are preparing to go out of town if possible. In fact room rents for the week are being offered at exorbitant rates and many apartment owners are happily 'to-letting' their downtown apartments and going to ruralise. One lady managed to earn $8,500 for her two-bed apartment for two weeks which was taken up by security personnel.

And the last bit of speculation is around the Free world's leader. Everyone's wondering if Obama will be staying the night in Toronto or will be flown to the United States each night after Summit meetings

Published by HT Syndication with permission from The Friday Times. For more information on news feed please contact Sarabjit Jagirdar at htsyndication@hindustantimes.com

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Publication:The Friday Times (Lahore, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 27, 2010
Words:914
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