What can $1 billion buy?

Living in downtown Toronto the past few weeks I feel a bit like a pinball, ricocheting between all the talk and celebration and general hoopla surrounding the World Cup on one hand and the G20/G8 conferences on the other. This weekend—with today’s Brazil-Portugal game and the leaders of the G20 countries arriving in the city—is likely to see some serious honking, shouting and carrying on.

But if the World Cup is good-natured fun, the G20 is quite a different story, especially when it comes to the investment in security. It’s hard not to feel that the $1 billion dollars spent on security (water cannons, sound cannons, fences, police, etc. etc.) is simply $1 billion not spent on the people who need it most.  Indeed, International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda says the money is coming out of Canada’s international aid budget—and this is at a time when Canada is already falling behind on its Millennial commitment to poverty reduction in the developing world.

With the G8/G20 focus on maternal and children’s health, imagine the possibilities for that $1 billion. According to MP Olivia Chow speaking in the House of Commons:

“Three percent of that $1 billion would provide all Canadian children a nutritious and healthy breakfast or snacks every day. We can lift all seniors out of poverty by increasing the guaranteed income supplement…. Canada could pay one-third of the costs of the millennium development goal and save the lives of over 10 million women and children by 2015.”

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