Despite controversy swirling over its sale and judgment pending in a judicial review, it's business at usual at the Mill River resort where extensive renovations continue uninterrupted. 

Last week, the P.E.I. Supreme Court heard a judicial review of the sale of the properties by the province to developer Don MacDougall.

P.E.I.'s Mi'kmaq Confederacy says the province failed to properly consult First Nations on the sale, and is asking the court to declare the sale invalid, or to at least suspend them in order to consult with the Mi'kmaq. 

'Business as normal'

Despite the legal wrangling, extensive renovations have already begun at the resort, which is causing excitement in the area. 

Mill River resort interior construction Jan 2018

The resort's lobby, restaurant, bar and some rooms are getting a long-awaited facelift. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"Unfortunately we're kind of caught in the crossfire between the Mi'kmaq Confederacy and and the province," said Geoffrey Irving, sales and marketing coordinator at the resort. 

"While we're definitely paying attention to the case, we have a property to manage and a construction schedule to keep on, so it's business as normal." 

The case has had no effect on the renovation schedule, Irving added. 

Legal fight could halt entire project

But some of the remedies sought by the confederacy could bring the $7 million project "to a grinding halt," the developer's lawyer warned Friday.

That could hurt the economy of western Prince Edward Island, locals say.

'It would be a total disaster if that place had to close.' - Eric Gavin

"It's been the best thing that's ever happened to that end of the Island," said Eric Gavin, mayor of O'Leary, of the resort and golf course complex. 


"Maybe the natives have got the rights, I don't know," said Gavin. "I just hope they get something settled here, regardless if it's compensation for the natives or whatever.

"It would be a total disaster if that place had to close. West Prince would really, really suffer," he said.  

The Mi'kmaq were consulted on disposal of several parcels of crown land in and around O'Leary, Gavin said, including the former liquor store, medical centre and old train station. He has no problem with the process except that it often takes many months to be decided, which can hold up progress. 

Resort still operating

The renovations at the resort involve an overhaul of the lobby, restaurant and bar and several hotel rooms and should be done in late March. Last year, improvements were made to the convention area and pro shop. 

Irving said the resort continues to operate and is busy hosting sports teams and other winter travellers. He said bookings this winter are similar to last. 

During peak season the resort employs 100 to 120 people, Irving said — a significant number of jobs for the area. The number of jobs remains the same as when the province owned the property, he said, although wages are less than government paid.

Mill River resort new rooms January 2018

A sample of what the resort's new rooms look like. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

With files from Brian Higgins