Mike Bruneau didn’t wait for the cheque to get in the mail.
Instead, the owner of the Misty Lake Lodge made sure to pick up the $2.6-million cheque owed to him for housing flood evacuees from northern First Nation communities — a period of almost a year.
Bruneau said his lodge will now remain open until September, or longer, but only if representatives of the Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters (MANFF) stop bullying people to leave his hotel.
"The money is one thing. That’s good," Michael Bruneau told the Free Press shortly after picking up the certified cheque from the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Affairs offices in Winnipeg Monday afternoon. "But why is MANFF harassing our evacuees? I know why. They hate me with a passion. They’re trying to hurt me any way they can.
"I got my money. I’m happy," Bruneau added. "But these guys (MANFF) have to go, these thieves."
Bruneau and Misty Lake have been in a long-running dispute now with MANFF officials, who were responsible for dispersing some $78 million for flood evacuation costs for residents from Lake St. Martin and Little Saskatchewan, who represent the vast majority of the 2,000 evacuees.
In fact, Bruneau still questions what happened to the $78 million supplied to MANFF by the federal government. Or why MANFF officials are still in charge of operating the organization, which last week was coordinating the evacuation of over 700 residents from Tataskweyak Cree Nation and Split Lake due to forest fires.
While the cheque was finally in the mail on Monday (approximately $2 million for Misty Lake and another $724,000 for an Ashern hotel owned by Bruneau), that only covers invoices up until April for Misty and June for Ashern. The tab is still running, with some two dozen evacuees remaining in Gimli.
Bruneau is hoping to expand the number of evacuees at Misty Lake in order to keep the facility open past September.
"That’s one battle of a monster war," Misty Lake general manager Retha Dykes noted, of the payment. "The evacuees are still getting screwed like crazy. MANFF still needs to be replaced."