Former American President George W. Bush’s new career initiative as a speaker-for-hire will bring him to Canadian cities frequently with a hefty security bill in tow, the Globe and Mail reported Sept. 26.
Bush’s speaking gigs north of the border are estimated to cost Canadian taxpayers over $500,000 this year. His events, mainly held by private-sector organizations, receive security funding from the RCMP to control crowds of protesters who may pose a threat to Bush or his audiences.
Bush’s security tab far exceeds that of any other President-turned-public speaker. At a speaking event in Toronto in May, former president Bill Clinton’s security costs came to $12,000. Bush’s bill at the same location was closer to $108,000.
Having Bush as a visiting spokesman holds value for Canadians. Although Clinton’s lower security price tag makes him a desirable choice, having a diversity of dignified speakers in Canada is good intellectual exercise—even if we don’t side with their views.
It’s vital to provide any visiting dignitary with protection. Being a country where a public figure encounters harassment or injury would be regrettable and embarrassing.
Security measures are in place for the benefit of the VIP, but it’s also important to keep dissenting groups under control for greater public safety among those who attend the speaking events. But it’s unreasonable for private groups to expect Canadian taxpayers to foot the bill for these lectures. Companies shouldn’t take advantage of taxpayers’ dollars by expecting the public to chip in for the security costs of private events.
It’s logical for private firms to incur the majority of costs, because it’s these groups who will attend and benefit from the lectures. Charging higher prices for tickets would generate revenue to put toward security.
The RCMP should develop a standard level of security protection for visiting dignitaries with an associated baseline cost. If a particular guest requires more security, extra costs should be covered by the guest or by the private organization that invited the guest.
Levels of security coverage should never be determined by the general public’s opinion of a visitor. As a guest in Canadian cities, it’s reasonable to expect to be protected regardless of your popularity.
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