Officials from Apex Resort sought support at a rally in Penticton Thursday in the wake of increasing evidence that the province’s efforts to have the ski area placed in receivership are politically motivated.
Apex President Mel Reeves was "told by a senior official the government wants to nullify our lawsuit," General Manager Gary Gierlich said Tuesday.
The provincial government has said it will file to have the courts appoint a receiver for the Okanagan ski resort next week if the $8 million loan guaranteed by the province isn’t repaid by today (Aug. 2).
Resort officials had been negotiating repayment and a company restructuring with the province for about six months prior to the provincial election in May. Apex says that prior to the election the deal was supported by senior government officials, recommended by the government’s consultant (Arthur Anderson), signed by Deputy Premier Dan Miller to go forward to the Treasury Board and passed by the Treasury Board.
At that point the province said it needed 90 days, until after the election, Gierlich says. Now, cabinet has rejected the proposal twice in the last two weeks.
"Mel feels they want to show they’re not going to let a company sue the government," Gierlich said.
Apex launched a $125 million suit against the provincial and federal governments and three native bands that blockaded the access road to the resort in the fall of 1994. Apex claims the five-week blockade directly cost the company $3 million and scared away skiers as well as future investors. A new quad lift and hotel were being built at the resort at the time.
"It took them 38 days to remove the blockade," Gierlich says. "The reason the government said they loaned us the money was because of the blockade."
The province has indicated if a receiver is appointed the resort will be sold within 90 days, but whether a buyer could be found when the access issue remains unresolved with the native bands is questionable.
"That’s what’s got us," Gierlich said.
Apex employs about 250 people in the winter and about 70 in the summer, making it the second largest winter employer in the South Okanagan, according to Gierlich. He says a $2.8 million cash injection had also been arranged, with private interests and through the stock options, if the deal with the province had gone through.
"Certainly we’re proceeding with our lawsuit and we’re fighting the Aug. 8 injunction," Gierlich said.
He added that prior to Thursday’s rally there was "a ground swell" of support in the community.
The rally at Penticton City Hall included an offer to sell discounted season passes. Funds from passes purchased are completely refundable and secured in a trust account. The rally was co-sponsored by the Penticton Chamber of Commerce, Penticton City Council, Apex Property Owners Association and the resort.