G20: Day One Blog

Helena Brown says she suddenly had a realization of how much pent up anger she had towards the G20 as she was walking down the street.

Hard to believe much anger could come from the blonde vintage clothing store owner in her brightly-coloured top and shorts. We chatted around the latest G20 news -- four official police uniforms had been stolen from a local dry cleaner and many feared they might be used to breach security. That's when her pent up frustration came out.

"Couldn't they have just put them in Alcatraz?" asks Brown. "They already have the security."

There's nothing that gets people riled up like spending a billion dollars. It's people like Brown, a store owner in Toronto's Kensington market, we wanted to hear from -- people who often don't get their voice heard.

Not only does the $1.2 billion security price tag get people angry, it also gets people wondering what else that money could be spent on. From aid for the developing world to social service programs for communities closer to home, couldn't that one weekend's worth of money be spent on something more than 48 hours of conversation? Is $416,666 a minute really worth it?

That's the billion dollar question.

Take Ken Gass, the director of a production called "Featuring Loretta" which played at Toronto's Factory Theatre. The operative word here is played. The show and the theatre's season ended a week early because of their proximity to the security zone.

"There are so many ways of spending it but creating a larger sense of community, taking the grassroots organizations and giving them the muscle to enlarge," he says. "There are so many small organizations that make the city come alive."

It's too bad that rather than showcasing the best of Toronto has to offer in what Gass calls a "cultural cabaret," these small organizations are instead on lockdown.

Lockdown is exactly what Catherine Sehnke, Manager, Child Youth and Family Development, is teaching the parents who use her daycare. Located about 3.5 kilometres from the site where leaders are meeting, the daycare is shutting down for the Thursday and Friday prior to the Summits. That's sending parents scrambling to find alternative arrangements as Catherine sends home documents detailing the centre's lockdown procedure.

Another person we spoke with today wanted to invest in children as well. Honourable Nonhlanhla Dlamini, a member of Swaziland parliament, said that by investing in children in her country she hoped to give the nation a future free from poverty.

"This is the time. [The leaders] need to change their words into actions," she says. "It pains me to know that so much is being spent on this meeting."

We asked if she believed that change would come -- if the leaders of the G20 would recognize this opportunity the same way this leader in Swaziland did. While we wanted to hear her say yes, the frown that appeared and the shake of her head answered the question succinctly.

"So many promises have been made and nothing has been accomplished so far," she said. "We are still waiting on a number of promises that have been made in previous years.

"Accountability rests with the people of each country."

Despite the frown, we did see hope in the form of our vintage store owner. Through Helena Brown's pent up anger and biting political commentary, we saw her demanding explanations from her government.

If that anger can be turned into action on the part of all of us, maybe then can we get some accountability.