I wander along to Doug Duncan Drive in downtown Newmarket to check out Dawn’s second free community BBQ, paid for by the taxpayers. The first free BBQ in October 2022 cost us $11,160.
The sky is blue and there is a chill in the air.
People are a bit thin on the ground with lots of empty chairs. There is a tent where you can get your photo taken to remind you of the big day. Dawn is hovering there.
There is a face painting tent but very few children.
There is food on trestle tables provided by A Million Mouthfuls.
But for all that, there is no electricity in the air.
I was interested in how many people would turn up and what would be on the menu, so to speak. I also wanted to chat with Dawn and, with some fancy footwork, I managed to get a minute of face-to-face time. Believe me, this is not easy. Outside BBQ season it is next to impossible to see the MPP if you want to discuss anything remotely controversial.
Now Dawn’s helpers are moving between me and the camera but I try not to let that distract me.
Dawn tells me the money to pay for the BBQ will come out of her “global budget” which is allocated by the Legislative Assembly. How much she chooses to spend on “hospitality” is a matter for her. She doesn't reveal what's in her global budget.
She boasts that 500 people came along to her free BBQ last year. She is hoping for more this year.
I don’t want to rain on her parade but it looks like a lot fewer today.
We shall have to wait until 1 March 2024 (when MPPs’ expenses for this quarter are posted on the OLA website) before we can see how much we paid for this rather limp and tepid event.
We get a little welcoming speech from Dawn which is nice. We are all wonderful. She points to the firefighters behind her and to their big red fire truck. What an amazing backdrop. Everyone loves firefighters!
I want her to say something about the Greenbelt or what she has been up to at Queen’s Park.
She could have told us if she was going to vote to reprimand the former Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Steve Clark, as recommended by the Integrity Commissioner David Wake. She could have told us if she was going to press for a debate in the Legislature. The alternative - a simple vote on a Government motion without debate - appears to be the Premier’s preference.
But that doesn’t happen. She sticks to the script.
And after an hour chatting to people I wander off.
Updated on 23 October 2023: Click "read more" to read my brief exchange with Dawn as the BBQ gets underway.
Update on 23 October 2023: From Newmarket Today: Supporters - some critics - flock to Newmarket-Aurora MPP BBQ
Dawn: Hi Gordon!
Me: I just wanted to ask you Dawn if this Is being paid for out of public funds like last year’s.
Dawn: It’s out of my global budget.
Me: It is. So this is taxpayer funded. That’s what I wanted to hear you say.
Dawn: It’s from the global budget that every MPP receives.
Dawn: Every MPP receives a global budget.
Me: I understand.
Dawn: And then they administer that budget accordingly… (indistinct) for my community. I am hoping for over 500. Last year we had well over 500. The kiddies are gonna have fun. People are gonna…
Me: But you think this is an appropriate use of public funds?
Me: Well, that’s the way to do it!
Dawn: Thank you, Gordon!
(The rules for members’ expenses are here. The rules are not published in their entirety.)