CANADA

A world-class meeting

JULIA BENNETT June 27 1988
CANADA

A world-class meeting

JULIA BENNETT June 27 1988

A world-class meeting

CANADA

In the relaxing June heat last weekend, Toronto’s Summit Square looked like a hybrid of an amusement park, beer garden and high-security prison. Surrounded by a 15-foothigh steel fence, the temporary hospitality centre for visiting journalists was a symbol of the iron-willed efforts of police to ensure security at the 14th annual economic summit of the world’s top industrialized nations. Reports from the Philippines that authorities had uncovered a Japanese terrorist plot against the summit just three days before the June 19 opening

put the $20-million event’s organizers and security personnel on alert. And the planners finalized arrangements for a postsummit celebration on Tuesday, when the seven visiting leaders were to be safely aboard their departing flights.*

Even as city public-works employees sprayed last-minute black and green food coloring on 1,200 pansies—part of a display of the colors of the participating nations’ flags—a joint force of the RCMP, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canadian Forces and provincial, regional and city police forces scrambled to keep Toronto’s congested downtown safe for the 4,000 dignitaries and journalists expected from 28 countries. There were no plans for the visiting dignitaries to appear in public together. “The security is less oppressive here than in Tokyo [site of the 1986 summit],” Prime Minister

Brian Mulroney told a news conference last Friday. “But we have had to take very serious measures.”

Still, the combined police forces relied mostly on standard summit precautions to secure Toronto’s downtown core of densely packed office towers, theatres, stores and nightclubs. Said Metropolitan Toronto Police Staff Supt. Bernard Nadeau, joint security force spokesman: “The downtown posed a great challenge.” Work crews removed mailboxes from streets around the Metro Toronto Convention Centre—where the lead-

ers were scheduled to hold their working meetings—as part of an effort to prevent terrorists from hiding bombs.

Meanwhile, military helicopters circled the city, while Canadian Coast Guard cutters patrolled the Lake Ontario shoreline. “We are apprehensive,” said Nadeau, “but we can handle anything.” Even before the leaders arrived, however, there were gaps in the security net. One host hotel manager told Maclean's that although he was instructed by police not to hire any new staff after the names of the hotels that were housing each leader were made public, he intended to bring on new workers if he needed them.

Across the street from the convention centre, construction crews worked around the clock to complete the 6!4-acre Summit Square. Union workers agreed to build the prestige project despite four city-wide con-

struction industry strikes. Everything going on display in the area, from flower beds to flying squirrels, underwent a scrupulous RCMP sweep, using police dogs and metal detectors. At week’s end, the first of 3,000 visiting journalists—who are expected to imbibe an estimated 63,000 glasses of free wine and beer at the square —started arriving to pick up their media credentials at the 24hour-a-day meeting place.

The relentless efficiency of the summit organizers was in keeping with the plan of civic officials to use a well-staged event as an argument in favor of Toronto hosting the 1996 Summer Olympics. But in the larger arena of summit politics, there was little doubt that municipal and provincial concerns took second place in an event that, among other things, provided Prime Minister Brian Mulroney with an opportunity to act as a world statesman. “It’s Brian Mulroney’s show,” said one provincial official, “and if there is news, he has to be at the centre of it. What he is saying, essentially, is ‘Re-elect me.’ ” Indeed, while provincial and municipal officials accepted the federal invasion graciously, they tried to arrange quiet meetings with delegates, such as a bilateral talk between West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Ontario Premier David Peterson.

Meanwhile, some members of Toronto’s elite —some of whom had contributed to the $4-million cost of Summit Square—attended a weekend fashion show held for the summit spouses. And the closely guarded guest list read like a who’s who of the Toronto Establishment. The hourlong event at the Royal Ontario Museum featured top Canadian models and high-fashion evening wear by 12 Ontario designers, including Alfred Sung.

The show was a joint effort, involving women representing the four levels of government that hosted the event—Brenda Eggleton, wife of City of Toronto Mayor Arthur Eggleton, Margaret Flynn, wife of Metropolitan Toronto Chairman Dennis Flynn, Shelley Peterson, wife of Ontario Premier David Peterson, and Mulroney’s wife, Mila. But tensions arose when a federal news release cited Mila Mulroney as sole host.

For other visitors, the streets of Toronto offered a different kind of summit excitement. Declared the marquee on one downtown strip club: “Free table dances for all world leadERS-ID required.” In response to a municipal cleanup campaign, anarchists and local graffiti artists stepped up their efforts to spray messages across Toronto buildings. Read

one widely used slogan: “Clean up Toronto—cancel the summit.” Meanwhile, some downtown prostitutes said that it was unlikely they would be able to take advantage of the influx of potential customers. Added one 20-year-old woman on a street corner in Toronto’s red-light district, several blocks from the summit site: “We would be crazy to head down there. The cops will be coming up here and clearing everybody out. I guess they don’t think it looks good.” Security and appearances, almost as much as political

goodwill, had become the international currency of the Toronto economic summit.

—JULIA BENNETT with correspondents’ reports

*The summit participants: Prime Minister Brian Mulroney; British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; U.S. President Ronald Reagan; French President François Mitterrand; West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl; Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita; Italian Prime Minister Ciriaco De Mita; and European Community Commission President Jacques Delors.