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Brydon Saton sits on his belongings as other residents who had to leave their homes lineup to receive compensation money from management outside the Balmoral Hotel in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, British Columbia, Monday, June 12, 2017. A dozen housing activists from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside called on the NDP to take immediate action to end a continuing homelessness crisis as they crashed a sold-out private party fundraiser in Vancouver on Friday.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

A dozen housing activists from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside called on the NDP to take immediate action to end a continuing homelessness crisis as they crashed a sold-out private party fundraiser in Vancouver, where the $350 for an individual ticket was only slightly less than the amount welfare recipients receive in rental assistance each month.

The Our Homes Can't Wait coalition of activists requested permission to speak to the audience of roughly 300 NDP supporters at the Hotel Vancouver Friday evening. Instead, the group agreed to send several members to sit down for 15 minutes with NDP Leader John Horgan to discuss the issue.

"A $350-per-plate dinner is just unfathomable for people who are living on welfare in the Downtown Eastside," said Lenée Son, a member of the Carnegie Community Action Project and Our Homes Can't Wait organizer. "The event was quite exclusive of low-income folk."

The private fundraiser was the first of its kind since before an election campaign during which Mr. Horgan promised to reform political fundraising rules and ban corporate and union donations immediately if his party formed government.

On Sunday, Glen Sanford, the NDP's deputy director, said if his party forms government, it will cap individual donations and review all fundraising rules, but has never committed to ending fundraising receptions such as the event held on Friday.

"Even in a world of banning union and corporate donations, it's quite common [in other jurisdictions] for a party at the local level to hold parties, to hold events and receptions," Mr. Sanford said.

Regular tickets were $350, with group rates for a ticket buyer and three friends going for $1,000. Mr. Sanford said Mr. Horgan gave a short speech about the political deadlock in Victoria before mingling with the crowd.

While the party continues to accept union and corporate donations, it is not making a specific outreach effort for those donations, Mr. Sanford said.

"If we had formed a majority government right from the get-go, we'd be at the point where legislation would be coming in to ban union and corporation donations," he said.

Last week, facing imminent defeat at the hands of the NDP-Green alliance, the Liberals joined their two rival parties in pledging to ban corporate and union donations after weeks of being criticized for, among other things, cash-for-access events in which donors pay up to $10,000 for a chance to sit down with the Premier.

Mr. Horgan and his party have said there is little point in weakening their ability to engage in political combat with the Liberals so they have forged ahead raising money following the election.

Last year, the Liberals raised $12-million while the NDP raised $6.2-million in donations. The Greens have already banned corporate and union donations to the party.

Earlier this month, the Liberals stopped disclosing political donations in "real time," saying they are instead focusing staff time on preparing for potential new fundraising rules under an NDP government. A Liberal Party spokesman did not return a request for an interview Sunday.

The Greens released a statement saying they look forward to supporting legislation that ends unethical political fundraising practices.

Liberals hold 43 seats in the legislature, the NDP has 41 and the Greens have three. All three party leaders have stated they have no desire for an early election, but Christy Clark said a government based on the Green-NDP alliance would be inherently unstable and could force an early election.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver says getting 'big money' out of politics is 'non-negotiable' if the Liberals and NDP want his party's support. Election results remain uncertain while 176,000 absentee ballots are counted.

The Canadian Press

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