A controversy is brewing over pricey swag bags passed out at the annual premiers’ conference in Halifax in July.  

Gift bags are traditionally passed out to attendees at such events, but some people are raising eyebrows over the amount taxpayers shelled out for the gifts.

Kevin Lacey, Atlantic Canada director of the Canadian Taxpayers Association, produced a freedom-of-information request to see how much was spent and what was purchased.

“Given that the premiers were in town to talk about the economy, why is it that they need to spend money on gifts and swag like this?”

Twenty-five cheese boards were purchased for just over $1,600, while almost the same amount was spent on 38 crystal whiskey tumblers.

Nearly $1,900 was spent on 25 leather journals and almost $5,000 was shelled out for 26 Taste of Nova Scotia crates.

Each premier and territorial leader received a sailboat dish, while 400 jackets were given to delegates. Others received porcupine brooches.

“What we have a problem with is, in this case, is that this is paid for with taxpayers money, not by private citizens,” says Lacey.

The total bill for the summit was $110,000. Nova Scotia taxpayers contributed $37,000, while the rest was funded by the Council of the Federation.

“There’s a long history of host provinces using this as an opportunity to showcase their property and services,” says Cathy MacIsaac of the Nova Scotia Intergovernmental Affairs office.

“The last conference in Nova Scotia in 2002 cost taxpayers $158,000. This cost taxpayers $37,000.”

Nova Scotia NDP MLA Matt Whynott says this year’s premiers’ conference in Nova Scotia was one of the least expensive ever held in Canada.

Some of the other expenses, such as food and drinks, were paid for by corporate sponsors.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant