Waterway Houseboats Ltd. and associated company Vinco Holdings Ltd. have entered receivership and ceased operations after a June 11 Supreme Court of British Columbia hearing.
According to Colleen Anderson, Waterway’s operations manager, 51 Waterway staff members were laid off on Tuesday, a day she calls the saddest of her life.
“Waterways contributions to the community and many charitable organizations has been no less then greatly generous and non self serving,” wrote Anderson, who also sits on the District of Sicamous council, in an email to the Eagle Valley News.
Anderson described Waterway as a partner in the community that was happy to contribute to or create local events. She said the company worked to promote Sicamous by spending thousands of dollars in many forms for advertising media to welcome guests and visitors to come houseboating in Sicamous, resulting in major tourism income for the community.
Waterway’s contributions to the Sicamous community included an annual donation to the Shuswap Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station which totalled $13,000 in 2019.
The application for the appointment of a receiver heard by the Supreme Court of British Columbia was made by CIBC, Waterway’s bank.
A statement published by Waterway on June 10, before the receivership hearing, expressed disappointment that CIBC was proceeding with the application. The statement posted to Waterway’s website said the company had been working cooperatively with CIBC on a financial restructuring strategy over the past several months and felt it would have been successful given enough time.
On June 11, a CIBC representative said they could not comment on client matters.
The statement from Waterway added that CIBC had been supportive of Waterway’s efforts to rebuild after their property suffered serious damage in the 2012 flooding. The bank also supported Waterway through the court case which found the District of Sicamous, the Province and the owners of a nearby private property liable for the damage. According to the June 10 statement, the settlement awarded by the court did not meet Waterway’s expectations.
Alvarez & Marsal Canada was appointed as the receiver at the June 11 hearing. According to court documents, as receivers, Alvarez & Marsal has the power to take possession of Waterway’s property and to manage, operate and carry on the business, but they are not obligated to do so.
The June 10 statement from Waterway said it was their understanding that the receiver would not likely operate the business.
Jacob Taggart, a housekeeping employee who was laid off on Tuesday, described it as a big let down. He said the managers waited until 20 minutes before the end of the shift before gathering the staff in the parking lot to explain what had happened and give them their cheques.
“It was definitely one of my favourite places to work; the staff overall we had an amazing team, the managers kept everything going perfectly smooth, there was never any troubles or anything, we all got along and got our work done,” he said.
Taggart said he has noticed plenty of other job opportunities in the region, providing hope for him and the other staff who will be looking for work.
The cancellation of the houseboat holidays for those who had booked with Waterway was as abrupt as the layoff of the employees.
Caren Punton, a Kamloops resident, had booked a family gathering on a houseboat from July 7 to 11. She said she received an email titled “Important notice regarding your upcoming houseboat vacation” late in the afternoon on June 10 containing the same notice that was posted on Waterway’s website. It was followed up by another email confirming that Waterway is in receivership and the receiver will not be operating the business.
Punton’s email requesting a refund did not receive a reply, but her credit card company has said they give her a refund and then seek compensation.
“This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to get everybody together. We haven’t done a family vacation in a long time, as children grow up and grow out with their own families it gets harder and harder to get together.”
Fortunately, Punton said, her family was able to book a lakefront getaway on short notice. She praised the help she received from the Shuswap community in helping find an alternative vaction spot so quickly.