Protesters arrived in Surrey, British Columbia this morning in advance of the planned speech by former U.S. president George W. Bush. Despite calls from such groups as Amnesty International that Canada arrest the former president for war crimes
, Bush's visit to the Sheraton Guildford hotel for the Surrey Economic Summit appears to have gone smoothly.
Roughly 200 protesters arrived in Surrey, many having traveled from the Occupy Vancouver demonstration, in order to protest a man that many feel is responsible not only for war crimes and torture (Bush has admitted to the latter, but not the former), but also the very economic situation that led to the 2008 recession.
The Globe and Mail
writes that Darlene Parsons, a 55-year-old protester, was "infuriated" that Surrey's mayor had invited Mr. Bush to speak at the event. And the irony of inviting Mr. Bush to speak on economic matters was not lost on Ms. Parsons.
"Bush will never be remembered as an economist," she says. "He'll be remembered as a person who brought the Americans to the brink of financial destruction."
Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers on the scene expected that the protests would run smoothly, but noted that anyone acting with violent or illegal intentions would be dealt with quickly to avoid any escalation or snowballing violence. Several intersections were shut down in order to keep the protesters away from the hotel where the summit was taking place.
This is not the first time in recent memory that protesters in B.C. have greeted former U.S. dignitaries. The Vancouver Sun
reminds readers that "former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney encountered about 250 demonstrators when he appeared at a Vancouver banquet last month to discuss his memoirs." And while those protests also remained relatively peaceful, "some of the attendees got jostled."
Bush is not alone at the economic summit. His predecessor, former U.S. president Bill Clinton, is also on hand to talk economics with Surrey mayor Diane Watts, B.C. Premier Christy Clark, and other guests.
But the presence of such high-caliber speakers has some questioning just how much Surrey has spent on the summit.
Surrey mayoral candidate Vikram Bajwa wants Mayor Watts to release all information to the public pertaining to what the summit has cost Surrey's taxpayers. Not merely in terms of police-presence and security, but the lofty fee that former American presidents command for speaking engagements.
is also claiming that Bajwa wants to know "who is paying for the security arrangements, and if the city will release information on the summit, such as donations, sponsorships and incurred expenses."
While Watts says she will not comment now on the cost of the summit, and has referred Bajwa to a third party group for detailed estimates and figures, the Seattle Intelligencer noted that in March, 2009, president Bush alone could command upwards of $100,000 to $150,000 an appearance.
A summit on how best to stimulate Surrey's economy through global connections may have set the city back far more than its citizens thought.