Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hotel to shut down, owed $3M by feds

Misty Lake still caring for 2011 flood evacuees

  • Print
Misty Lake Lodge owner says he is owed millions.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Misty Lake Lodge owner says he is owed millions. Photo Store

A Gimli hotel that has been home to dozens of flood evacuees for more than two years is closing its doors Sept. 1 because it has been unable to collect more than $3 million it says it's owed by Ottawa.

Michael Bruneau, owner of the Misty Lake Lodge, gave the bad news to the hotel's 15 remaining employees Monday.

He said he's borrowed from his other businesses -- he owns 14 hotels in Manitoba and Ontario -- and even recently mortgaged his home to keep the Gimli property afloat. But he said he's unable to keep the lodge open any longer.

"Not only financially, (but) mentally I'm done," Bruneau said a telephone interview. "Everybody's burned out here. Everybody is stressed out."

'Not only financially, (but) mentally I'm done. Everybody's burned out here. Everybody is stressed out'

-- Misty Lake Lodge owner Michael Bruneau

Bruneau said he met April 15 with officials from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters (MANFF) to resolve the long-standing billing issue. MANFF is the organization delegated by Ottawa to handle First Nation evacuation services.

At the time, he said, the feds ordered MANFF to pay all monies owed that were not in dispute. He expected to receive about $2 million. Instead he received a cheque in May for $538,000.

He said he has received no explanation from MANFF or the feds as to why they made only a partial payment. Neither does he know what items are in dispute. "Nobody will talk to us," he said Monday.

The lodge was once home to as many as 180 Lake St. Martin and Little Saskatchewan First Nation flood evacuees. Bruneau remodelled many of its rooms, knocking out walls, to accommodate large families. It still has more than two dozen flood evacuees, most of whom have been there since the spring of 2011.

The children go to school in Gimli. Several of the adults have found jobs in the community, including at Bruneau's hotel. Now they face eviction and a likely move to a Winnipeg hotel since adequate housing is still not available for them in their home communities.

"This is home for them. We're friends, we're family. Our kids go to school together. We have Christmas dinners together," said Misty Lake general manager Retha Dykes.

Manitoba Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson said he was surprised by the decision to close the hotel. He was under the impression the hotel was working through the payment issue with Ottawa.

The Manitoba minister's main concern now is that alternative housing is found for flood evacuees still staying at the lodge. "We'll work with the federal government to make sure that nobody is put on the street," he said.

A MANFF official, who would only give his first name, Jimmy, said his organization had not received any official word from Misty Lake Lodge and would not comment. "We're not negotiating this through the media at all," he said.

A spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada said the department was preparing a press statement on the issue, but none was received by deadline.

MANFF, acting as Ottawa's agent, fell behind in its payments to the hotel late last summer, Dykes said. The payment the hotel received in May covered only a portion of bills incurred last fall.

Meanwhile, several MANFF staff members continue to eat meals at Misty Lake and charge them to their rooms, even while the organization refuses to pay its bills. Dykes said until now the lodge has been loath to turf them out because it was still hoping to be paid and didn't want to antagonize MANFF. That will likely soon change, she said.

Bruneau, who once employed 60 full- and part-time staff at the hotel, appears resigned to turning to the courts to secure payment for the outstanding debts. But that will take time. Meanwhile, he said, he has no choice but to lay off his staff and close the lodge's doors.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 16, 2013 A3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Doug Speirs trains for role in Nutcracker

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A pelican comes in for a landing Wednesday afternoon on the Red River at Lockport, Manitoba - Standup photo- June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A Great Horned Owl that was caught up in some soccer nets in Shamrock Park in Southdale on November 16th was rehabilitated and returned to the the city park behind Shamrock School and released this afternoon. Sequence of the release. December 4, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What's your take on the Jets so far this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google