If you build it, they will come.
The outcome was as predictable as a math equation: use the G-20 leaders as bait in the center of the country's largest city, deploy thousands of excited cops, many of them completely unfamiliar with the city -- or any large city -- in riot gear after psyching them up for months. Then the usual crowd of lawful protesters, lawless anarchists, shit disturbers, bored people will, of course, show up. Toss in lots of live TV coverage, with panting, delighted commentators, to ensure that everyone plays their part.
It happens at summits all the time. That's why we should have known it would happen in Toronto.
Leaders from countries that don't have Canada's civil rights must get an interesting lesson. Democracy, they are told through the actions of the government, is a veneer. When the chips are down -- and not by much -- democracies like Canada must suspend civil rights, crack down on public dissent, and keep leaders away from the people.
I'm not sure that's the lesson we really wanted to give the Saudis, the Indonesians and Chinese, but actions speak louder than words. We just showed them that democratic states are not "weak," but we also told them that Canada sees mass arrests, riot cops and rubber bullets as "go to" tactics at a relatively low level of provocation.
The events this weekend were part of the polarization of Canada into "ins" and "outs". Toronto, the great Tory whipping boy, known in every cornfield and duckburg as a great center of decadence filled with sketchy people and bad attitude, was thoroughly scourged this weekend. I found it symbolic that the worst trouble was at Queen and Spadina, Toronto's trendiest neighbourhood, the epicenter of the city's arts and media culture.
Anyone with any knowledge of how these things work would have, must have, seen it coming. So, in effect, this is what they wanted.
Stephen Harper left Toronto with a deal that frames his plans to cut the federal budget into a plan by the major countries of the world to cut their deficits. When he brings down tough restraint budget next spring and sparks an election, he will be able to go to the people saying the cuts are mandated by the G-20.
Meanwhile, the people of Canada learned that all the nice trappings of the state -- Question Period silliness, Canada Day pap, royal visits, HST rebate cheques -- are the velvet gloves of modern governments.
This weekend, we saw the fist.