Canada: One town's G-8 makeover
• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
HUNTSVILLE, ONTARIO – Whatever else they disagree on, most of the 18,500 residents of Huntsville, Ontario, share the feeling that once they host the Group of Eight summit in July 2010, their modest town will never be the same.
“We’re going to use the G-8 as a platform to spring forward,” says Claude Doughty, Huntsville’s mayor. Huntsville is attempting to transform itself into an events tourism haven as preparations are under way to host the G-8 summit at the posh Deerhurst Resort.
Big money ($1 million Canadian a week, or about US$908,000) is being spent on upgrading roads, sewers, and buildings to house the approximately 5,000 journalists, several thousand protesters, and tens of thousands of political and security aides that are standard G-8 fare. The mayor is particularly proud of a research center that will be used to support G-8 activities and later become an environmental-educational facility.
Not everyone is so upbeat, however. Conspiracy theories abound among locals anxious about seeing their quiet streets overwhelmed. The Huntsville Forester newspaper has a regular feature showcasing rumors about the summit. Word is being whispered that the insect repellent DEET will be dumped around the area, and that vandalizing protesters are going to take over campgrounds.
Some residents are simply unconvinced about the G-8’s benefits. “Name the locations of the last six G-8 summits,” says retired business manager Harry Wahl. People here think they’re going to be put on the world map, he says. “But really they have no idea what they’re in for.”