Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberal Government to Spend $1.6M to Showcase Canada at G7 Media Centre

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberal Government to Spend $1.6M to Showcase Canada at G7 Media Centre

Article excerpt

Feds to plug Canada at G7 with $1.6M exhibit


OTTAWA - The Trudeau government will spend nearly $1.6 million to market Canada to foreign journalists coming to Quebec City for next month's G7 summit, conjuring echoes of the political uproar the federal Conservatives triggered in 2010 with a similar sum for the same objective.

This year, careful attention has been paid to ensuring the summit's international media centre is draped in Canadiana -- right down to the maple syrup on the menu.

The goal is to not only use the media centre to advance Ottawa's chosen themes for the summit, but to sell Canada -- and the popular Charlevoix tourist region -- to foreign media. It will focus on Canada's technological, touristic and culinary strengths.

Due to security reasons, most visiting journalists are unlikely to get anywhere near the Charlevoix town of La Malbaie, where the G7 leaders will actually meet in early June. Instead, about 2,000 journalists will be stationed about a two-hour drive away at the Quebec City convention centre.

A key objective of the government's "showcase exhibit" at the media centre will be sharing highlights and flavours from Charlevoix and other parts of Canada with visiting journalists.

A similar $1.9-million effort to promote Canadian tourism caused a political migraine for former prime minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government prior to the G8 and G20 summits in Toronto and Ontario's Muskoka region.

Most of the disapproval focused on Ottawa's decision to pay $57,000 of that amount to build an artificial lake at the media centre, part of an effort to showcase Muskoka to those journalists who were unable to travel from Toronto to Huntsville, Ont., for the G8 meeting.

Critics -- including then-Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and then-NDP leader Jack Layton -- seized on the so-called "fake lake" and hammered the Harper government for it. Harper defended the project as a well-planned "marketing pavilion" for Canada.

"There are thousands of visitors from around the world," Harper said at the time. "This is a classic attempt for us to try and market the country."

The Tories also faced flak for using a $50-million G8 legacy fund to build a $100,000 gazebo and to pay for streetscape upgrades and parks far from the summit site in the riding of then-Treasury Board president Tony Clement.

Eight years on, the controversy still strikes a familiar chord on Parliament Hill. Last week, Treasury Board President Scott Brison used it as ammunition as he took a shot at the Tories during question period.

"Those are the same Conservatives who took millions of dollars from a border infrastructure fund to build gazebos and fake lakes hundreds of kilometres away from the border," Brison said. …

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