The Harper government is promising to participate in the reconstruction of the devastated city of Lac-Mégantic, but it is still refusing to provide firm details on the forthcoming financial help.
At a news conference on site on Wednesday, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and local Conservative MP Christian Paradis sought to reassure the community that Ottawa “will be there” to help Lac-Mégantic deal with the recent rail tragedy.
“Yes, you can count on the federal government to be supportive and we will be here to help with reconstruction, in whatever way the province and the municipality wants us to be there,” Ms. Raitt said. “The difficult part, of course, is understanding the pure quantum of what we’re looking at.”
Albeit not fluently bilingual, she spoke in French and English as she told the local population that “the people of the country are with you.”
“We will take the measures that are needed to avoid such accidents from happening in the future,” Ms. Raitt said, stating investigations into the deadly blast and fire are ongoing.
Mr. Paradis, who is the Minister of International Development, said Ottawa is in talks with officials in Lac-Mégantic and Quebec City to help determine the financial needs. He refused to answer questions from reporters who were seeking clearer details about the federal government’s intentions in Lac-Mégantic.
The provincial government has already pledged $60-million to the city, but Ottawa has yet to lay out any figure.
“There is a reconstruction to be done over the short, medium and long term. The federal government has a role to play,” Mr. Paradis said. “We will all rebuild this city together… I want to reassure the population, we will be a part of the solution when it comes to reconstruction.”
Mr. Paradis added that “people who be identified as having broken the law will be held responsible.”
Standing on the sidelines, local resident Claude Boulet shook his head as Mr. Paradis spoke.
“They’ve forgotten us,” said Mr. Boulet, wearing a polo shirt from the restaurant where he worked in downtown Lac-Megantic. The business is closed due to the mandatory evacuation zone around the crash site.
Without promises of federal aid, the chef is worried he will be on the unemployment rolls for months. “They have the money,” the man said, fighting tears after no announcement was made. “Why did they come here?”
Ms. Raitt only became Transport Minister in the cabinet shuffle on Monday, and made it clear that heading out to Lac-Mégantic was her first priority.
Mr. Paradis has been in town since the day of the tragedy, which has left some 50 people dead or missing.