Canada braces for 'G' summits with C$1 bln plan

Wed Jun 2, 2010 11:13am EDT

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*Upscale Huntsville resort readies for G8 summit

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*Three-metre fence to block off Toronto's core

By Pav Jordan

HUNTSVILLE, Ontario, June 2 (Reuters) - Contingency Plan 32 would remove any conceivable projectile, even decorative rocks, from the streets of Huntsville, Ontario, a posh lake-district resort town where Canada will host the G8 summit of world leaders later this month.

"The security folks will just phone us and say 'Plan 32, roll, get rid of all that stuff', because the risk assessment has gone up, we know somebody's coming that could be a problem," Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty told Reuters from offices overlooking pleasure boats and bronzed vacationers.

It's a plan Doughty hopes will never be needed, but also one that he admits must be ready as his sedate town braces for anti-globalization protesters determined to disrupt the meeting of the leaders of the rich industrialized world.

Set in the heart of a lake district called Muskoka, a name so associated with leisure that Canada names wooden lounge chairs after it, Huntsville hosts the Group of Eight summit on June 25-27.

The leaders from United States, Canada, France, Britain, Russia, Germany, Italy and Japan, then head to Toronto, a two-hour drive south of Muskoka, for two more days of talks at a Group of 20 summit of industrialized nations and important emerging economies, including China and India.

The summit agendas will focus on the financial crisis that has torn across the globe. As in past summits, the meetings may be a perfect forum for international environmental and anti-poverty campaigners.

DOUBLE TROUBLE

The two summits will cost Canada's Conservative government close to C$1 billion ($960 million) for security alone, ruffling the feathers of groups -- and opposition parties -- who see that as overspending at a time of austerity.

There will be two separate security staffs, one housed in a specially built compound near Huntsville's Deerhurst Resort, where the G8 leaders will meet.

The pricey lakeside resort is flanked by a pristine golf course, tennis courts, riding stables and nature trails.

In Toronto, Canada's largest city, part of the financial core will be closed off behind 3-metre (10-foot) fences to prevent access, while an outer security zone will also be closed to protest groups.

"There's a risk. There's always a risk there is going to be a mob scene, or a demonstration is going to get out of hand," Doughty said, adding he's been given no cause for concern yet.

Groups have advised authorities of their intention to demonstrate, and while most promise peaceful protests only, Canadians got a taste late last month of how far some activists might go to get attention with the firebombing of a branch of Canada's largest bank, the Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) in Ottawa, the nation's capital.

THOUSANDS DEPLOYED

In Muskoka, kilometers of high, steel fences now cut across green foliage like knives.

On the floor of an old rock quarry a few miles from Deerhurst, a makeshift town has sprung up in the shape of hundreds of shiny mobile homes surrounding a massive white tent: the security barracks for the G8 event.

The area is cordoned off and tucked at the end of a road piercing lush woodland. Locals say it will house 5,000 security personnel. Authorities declined comment.

On Main Street in Huntsville, police have told owners of shops with big glass storefronts to take precautions.

"We were told to remove our real-fur teddy bears from the display in order not to be targeted by the animal rights activists," said Linn Lussier, clerk at a store selling Canadian arts and crafts on the high street.

Residents, who met with government officials a year and a half ago in town hall meetings, say they are not afraid.

"People are talking about protesters, but I don't think anybody is worried," said Chris Boothby, 20, a psychology student working at a Huntsville restaurant for the summer.

Residents say the summit brought an economic boom to the town at a time when the rest of Canada was in recession.

Separate from security spending, Canada spent C$40 million on infrastructure, including the legacy G8 Summit Center that gives Huntsville a new ice hockey arena and a environmental research facility for the University of Waterloo.

In the end, Mayor Doughty doubts contingency plan No. 32 will ever be invoked.

"I think the day the G20 moved to Toronto a fair amount of our risk went with it," he said.

Huntsville is about 220 kilometers (140 miles) northeast of the Toronto and 350 km northwest of the capital Ottawa.

($1=$1.04 Canadian) (Reporting by Pav Jordan; editing by Janet Guttsman and Peter Galloway)

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