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Annual barbecue again tops Newmarket-Aurora MPP's expenses

Dawn Gallagher Murphy's 2023 barbecue cost $9,589, while other York Region MPPs held similar taxpayer-funded gatherings that were among the most expensive in the province
Newmarket-Aurora MPP Dawn Gallagher Murphy speaks during a community barbecue event last October at Riverwalk Commons.

Newmarket-Aurora MPP Dawn Gallagher Murphy’s top expense in 2023 was once again her community barbecue.

The MPP expensed a total of $9,589 for the second annual event held Oct. 2, 2023, representing one of the most expensive events expensed by an MPP in the calendar year. Still, though many held events and barbecues that came in cheaper, at least 14 of the 124 MPPs have events come in higher on the Ontario Legislative Assembly expense website

Gallagher Murphy said the event at Riverwalk Commons had about 400 attendees last year, and the costs incurred follow all rules and guidelines.

“The annual community barbecue provides an opportunity for constituents to meet with me in a very casual manner to engage in conversation, while enjoying some food and entertainment for the entire family,” she said. 

The costs for the event were less than the 2022 version, which cost $11,160. That represented the highest single expense among the province's MPPs for the last quarter of 2022 — the first quarter post-election.

MPPs are allowed to expense for events as part of their annual budgets. These events must be open to the public, non-partisan and non-political, and free of alcohol. The assembly will not cover expenses if the events are covered or shared at all by a riding association or any outside organization.

It is not clear why the barbecue cost as much as it did. The Town of Newmarket said the base fee for special event bookings at parks and other areas was $130.70 in 2023.

Gallagher Murphy’s barbecue was among the highest-cost events across all MPPs in the last term. Other MPPs came in with events at lower costs ranging from $1,000 to $7,000 at the highest end. For example, Brantford-Brant MPP Conservative Will Bouma had two community barbecues costing $4,685 and $2,896. 

Dozens of other barbecues and other events hosted by MPPs came in with lower expenses. However, several were also higher than what Gallagher Murphy spent, including several York Region-area MPPs.

Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill Conservative MPP Michael Parsa expensed more than $13,714 for his annual summer barbecue. 

Markham-Thornhill MPP Logan Kanapthi hosted two barbecues that broke five figures, with one costing more than $15,284 and another more than $10,868. Kanapathi also held a Chinese New Year event costing more than $11,213.

York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney expensed over $10,901 for her community barbecue, while Vaughan-Woodbridge MPP Michael Tibollo expensed more than $12,183 for his. 

But it would be Thornhill MPP Laura Smith, who had the highest expensed singular event of York Region-area MPPs in 2023, with her Canada Day barbecue costing more than $17,777.

Other MPPs that expensed events costing more than Gallagher Murphy’s community barbecue included:

  • Scarborough-Rouge Park Conservative MPP Vijay Thanigasalam, $13,151 for a community barbecue.
  • Mississauga-Erin Mills Conservative MPP Shereh Sabawy, $16,368 for a Ramadan Iftar.
  • Independent Kaleed Rasheed and Conservative Natalia Kusendova-Bastha, Mississauga East-Cooksville and Mississauga Centre MPPs, more than $17,000 each for a shared community barbecue
  • Eglinton-Lawarence Conservative MPP Robin Martin, $10,625 for a community barbecue. 
  • Oakville Stephen Crawford Conservative MPP $11,283 for a community barbecue
  • Scarborough North Conservative MPP Raymond Sung Joon Cho, $11,291 for a community barbecue. 
  • Mississauga Malton Conservative MPP Deepak Anaad, $16,950 for a Thanksgiving meal

Gallagher Murphy's other expenses included $4,517 for a coronation viewing event, along with various amounts for travel expenses and caucus retreats.

Gallagher Murphy said her barbecue event is fully inclusive.

“I am thrilled that my BBQ has become a community builder that is inclusive and welcoming of all our community members, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, or political ties,” she said.