The B.C. Securities Commission is currently investigating the project director of a proposed ski resort in the area.
Ron McHaffie is accused of defrauding 30 investors out of $642,960 through the sale of shares in BigFoot Recreation & Ski Area between August 2007 and January 2012. The commission says McHaffie has never been registered to sell securities in B.C.
A notice of hearing was issued by the commission last week and alleges McHaffie made false statements to entice investors, such as telling them that their money would be used for expenses related to getting BigFoot publicly listed, and that construction or completion of the ski resort was imminent. Instead, according to the notice, McHaffie used investor funds to pay for personal expenses, including gas, restaurants, groceries and retail purchases.
According to the project’s website, BigFoot was intended to be a year-round operation offering “unparalleled” alpine skiing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, fishing, boating, rock climbing, golfing, and camping. There would also be a conference facility, spa, and Olympic grade training facilities for Canadian athletes. At the proposal time, the Hope & District Chamber of Commerce estimated the project would provide about 400 jobs.
Laidlaw resident Lee Peters, a former member of the Peters First Nation Band, said McHaffie pitched the proposal to him years ago and by all appearances was a trustworthy businessman from Princeton. He made an agreement with McHaffie at that time to be a 25 per cent owner/director in the ski resort and be responsible for road and trail construction.
According to Peters, the Jones Lake watershed was his family’s trapping grounds and water flows into the Lorenzetti Creek watershed, which is Shxw’owhamil reserve land. Peters said he supported the proposal – despite the Peters Band not wanting anything to do with the project –because it would not only preserve the land but have economic benefits.
Peters said McHaffie acquired the necessary permits for the ski resort, including a five-year temporary permit to develop the roadwork. He also got initial support for the project from provincial and federal politicians. Peters said when McHaffie’s five-year temorary permit expired, the government took over ownership of the land, which is now being logged.
“The logging companies are now using the trap line trails, destroying the heritage of the Peters Band,” he said. “The clear cutting of the forest will cause huge slides and washouts, which is very visible at Jones Lake at the present time. The raw logs will be shipped out of our country, benefiting no one other than the workers with temporary employment.”
Peters said it’s unfortunate that BigFoot was never built, but he doesn’t believe McHaffie embezzled investor funds because he had to spend thousands of dollars on studies and surveys to obtain the necessary project permits. However, in the notice about the allegations, the commission says BigFoot’s ski resort proposal was rejected by the provincial government in September 2010 and McHaffie continued to raise a total of $111,070 from investors after that date.
The Hope Standard tried to reach McHaffie for comment, but he did not respond by press deadline.
A hearing into the allegations is set for June 25 at 9 a.m.