‘We didn’t wait for a multinational’

Brenda Branswell February 14 2000

‘We didn’t wait for a multinational’

Brenda Branswell February 14 2000

‘We didn’t wait for a multinational’

A remote section of Quebec’s sprawling Berthier/Montcalm riding, about 160 km north of Montreal, doesn’t seem like an obvious site for a high-class inn. But officials at Human Resources Development Canada saw it differently, allocating an $839,265 grant to the hotel owners under the Canada Jobs Fund. Now, the inn is in trouble. In December, four months after opening, the Auberge du Lac Taureau filed for bankruptcy protection—among its creditors are builders and tradesmen who placed $2.5 million in mortgage liens against the $11-million hotel. And, as a result of the grant, it is also embroiled in the spending scandal that has beset Ottawa.

But the cozy 100-room auberge is still in operation. And spokesmen for Centre Nouvel Air Matawinie Inc., the company that spearheaded the project, insist that the investment is sound. President Mario

Gouin notes that the firm, which owns another hotel nearby, is profitable—and says the inn will per. “It’s not a financial operation problem,” says Gouin, who chalks up the current woes to a $1. lion overrun in building costs. “It’s a construction-cost problem that we’ll settle in the next few months.

Moreover, the inn helped create 150 full-time jobs in an area that badly needs to diversify its forestrybased economy. “In two years, we probably wont need this type of aid,” says Gouin. “We’re in the

midst of changing.” The project, located in a riding currendy held by Bloc Québécois MP Michel Bellehumeur, has also received backing from the Parti Québécois provincial government and 150 shareholders, among them the solidarity fund of Que-

bec’s federation of labour, which holds the biggest stake. Says Gouin: “We didn’t wait for a multinational to come and invest in the region.”

Brenda Branswell