September 8, 2017 3:35 pm
Updated: September 9, 2017 1:33 pm

B.C. Premier attends unofficial cash-for-access dinner days before throne speech

In this photo B.C. Premier John Horgan is photographed with CEO of Dhesi Enterprises Kulwant Dhesi, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, Horgan’s Chief of Staff Geoff Meggs and convicted shooter Maninder Gill.

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As the BC NDP government gets ready to introduce its first throne speech, changes to political fundraising rules are expected to be front and centre.

But that didn’t stop the premier from attending an exclusive dinner in Surrey on Wednesday night.

READ MORE: B.C. NDP takes heat over prospect of donation ban delay

The fundraiser was held at the home of longtime NDP supporter Kulwant Dhesi – the CEO of Dhesi Enterprises.

According to Elections BC, the company has given the party $3,000 between 2010 and 2013, and a man with the same name donated $14,000 from 2003 to just before May’s election period.

Credit: Elections BC

Credit: Elections BC

But according to the NDP, the event was not a fundraiser but rather a “gathering” organized by a supporter.

However, CKNW spoke to multiple people who were in attendance, who said a donation was encouraged.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said that if it was a fundraiser, she wasn’t advised, and said that even though she left before dinner, she didn’t see anyone raising any money.

WATCH: NDP calls on Liberals to ban big money donations

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CKNW has learned event goers – including well-known business people and developers – paid between $1,000 and $5,000 to attend the event, organized with the help of Citizens Services Minister Jinny Sims.

One source said the event raised just half of its $100,000 goal.

While it isn’t against the rules, in opposition the NDP raised concerns about the BC Liberals cash-for-access events.

READ MORE: Horgan defends continued NDP acceptance of corporate and union donations

To complicate matters, photos from the event show Horgan, Sims, Hepner, and Horgan Chief of Staff Geoff Meggs posing with a convicted shooter, former Radio India boss Maninder Gill.

Gill was sentenced to four years behind bars for a 2010 shooting outside a Surrey temple that left one man injured.

He’s currently appealing that conviction with a hearing set for January of next year.

READ MORE: ‘Big money is distorting our politics’: BC NDP leader on the issue of political donations

Also in the photo is Jawahar Padda, who is facing gun charges of his own. He has court dates for next year for charges that include assault, unlawful confinement and uttering threats.

In a statement, the BC NDP said the Premier did not know Maninder Gill, nor was he privy to the guest list of the event.

Hepner said Dhesi invited her and the only reason why she went to the dinner was to establish a relationship with the province’s new premier.

“I do know Maninder Gill, it was not my intention to be in a photo with him, group or otherwise.”

Hepner said her stance against gun-violence is known.

WATCH: Political fundraising under scrutiny in B.C.

The NDP took some heat for delaying its plan to ban corporate and union donations. The ban was supposed to include caps on individual donations.

The NDP had pledged to implement the ban as its first order of business.

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