The general manager of Misty Lake Lodge says the hotel is owed more than $1 million by the federal government agency that is supposed to cover the costs of housing flood evacuees.
The owner of the hotel near Gimli expects the issue to be settled in court.
"This has been going on since April 2011 when we got the first evacuees," Retha Dykes said Wednesday morning. "They owe us more than $1.5 million. They owe the Ashern Motor Hotel $500,000. They’ve been behind in their payments from the start."
The Manitoba Association of Aboriginal Firefighters (MANFF) is supposed to be paying the tab for the 65 evacuees at Misty Lake Lodge and 30 at the Ashern hotel. Both are owned by Mike Bruneau, who owns a dozen Manitoba hotels.
Dykes said they knew there would be delays in payments because they were dealing with a government agency, but they’ve been chasing their money for months.
"We met with the (MANFF) board in December. We were waiting at least 90 days for our invoices to be paid. They agreed to pay the bills in full in 60 days. That just never happened," she said.
Dykes said every room is filled with evacuees, so the future of the lodge depends on receiving the MANFF payments.
"We cancelled weddings, everything. We have no outside guests."
She said the hotel has done what it can to make the lodge feel like home for the evacuees. Bruneau bought a bus to transport guests to Winnipeg for medical appointments. Kids are driven to school and picked up when they’re ill. Staff have organized movie nights, bowling outing and sleigh rides.
Dykes said the costs were supposed to be covered by the profits of having a full hotel.
She said the lodge staff are being paid from profits from one of Bruneau’s Winnipeg hotels.
Dykes said MANFF told her the payments were delayed because they hadn’t been paid by the province’s Emergency Measures Organization (EMO). She said Bruneau later determined that was false.
"I don’t really know what it’s going to mean in the end. I think at some point we’ll be going to court," she said, adding no evacuees will be evicted while the children are still in school.
No one answered the phone at MANFF offices early Wednesday morning.