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Premier Brian Gallant speaks with guests at the Opportunities New Brunswick event held in Montreal in Oct. 2015. (Facebook)

Premier Brian Gallant hosted a two-hour party in a Montreal hotel in October 2015 that cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. 

The event, held at the Marriot Montreal Château Champlain included an open bar tab worth $2,000. Guests also left with $1,400 worth of Ganong chocolate truffles as party favours. 

Opportunities New Brunswick hosted the 'alumni event' and invited dozens of expatriate New Brunswickers with the aim of getting them to invest in their home province.  

In a written statement to CBC News, Guy Gallant of the premier's office wrote, "Networking has been a long established best practice in business. Previous governments have used it as well. The countless networking associations that exist are testament to the fact that it is effective and it does bring a return on investment."

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New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant with guests at Opportunities New Brunswick's 'alumni event' in Montreal. (Facebook)

The government has not said if the party has resulted in any new investment opportunities.  

Invoices obtained through the Right to Information Act include a bill for $3,160 worth of finger foods, $1,418.15 worth of Ganong premium truffles and a $1,975 open bar tab.

Other expenses included: 

  • $550 for two platters of assorted cheese and crackers 
  • $414 for 12 dozen mini-burgers/sliders 
  • $195 for five dozen apple brie grilled cheese sandwiches 

The total cost of the event, including travel and accommodations for one government staffer, is tallied at $12,455.32. The amount does not include Premier Gallant's travel and accommodation costs.

"This sends the wrong message about the situation the province is in," said Kevin Lacey of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a government watchdog group. 

"To spend money on these types of frivolous things, at a time when the province is struggling financially and trying to raise taxes, is not a strategy that will sell the province well."   

Lacey said in light of the upcoming budget on Feb. 2, the government expecting New Brunswickers to be okay with this type of spending is unrealistic.     

"The province has been crying for, and wants to, raise taxes," said Lacey. "And it's shameful that they're spending thousands on free food and booze for invited guests."

Opportunities New Brunswick has refused to release a guest list, citing privacy concerns, though some photos of the event were published on the premier's Facebook page and Twitter account.      

Among those in the photos was CEO for the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation Bruno Battistini. 

Battistini confirmed he attended the event after being invited by the Gallant government, despite currently residing and working in New Brunswick. 

"There was not only New Brunswick expatriates there," said Battistini. "There were number of business people ... from Montreal that were a part of that thing." 

Opportunities New Brunswick refused to comment on whether or not the event's guest list was exclusively expatriate New Brunswickers.

The Montreal party was one of at least three similar events Premier Gallant hosted. Two others took place in Edmonton and Calgary. Those who attended say there were similarities to the Montreal gathering, including an open bar and party favours. 

"They had the Ganong Chocolates and they had Moosehead beer," said Meredith Gillis, a former St. Thomas University student working in St. Paul, Alberta.

Gillis, who is an on-air host at a private radio station, said her invitation came through a STU alumni email address. She didn't, and still doesn't, think she's in a position to be a potential investor in the province.

"It didn't sound like a lot of the people I spoke to were necessarily in a position where they could go to New Brunswick to invest," said Gillis.

"I don't think people were really understanding that the government of New Brunswick was looking at it as a way of luring people back to New Brunswick," she said. "I would be really curious actually to see if anybody that was there has decided to pack up shop and move to New Brunswick, or set something up in New Brunswick."