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The federal government had announced an initial $60-million in emergency help for Lac Mégantic, Que.

PETER POWER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Stephen Harper's Quebec lieutenant says the province needs to offer specific financial demands for the Lac-Mégantic cleanup instead of complaining about the pace of federal assistance.

The federal government will be involved in decontaminating the town after previously announcing an initial $60-million in emergency help, Denis Lebel said Tuesday.

More than 5.7 million litres of oil spilled after the devastating train derailment and explosion in July that killed 47 people.

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"We've been in Mégantic from the beginning," Mr. Lebel said. "We're going to stay there, including for the decontamination."

The latest Ottawa-Quebec squabble revolves around a letter the province's Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, Alexandre Cloutier, sent Mr. Lebel on Sept. 5.

In it, Mr. Cloutier asked Mr. Lebel to promise in writing that Ottawa would share the financial burden in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Mr. Cloutier released the letter this week and complained he hadn't received a response from Mr. Lebel, the federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister. Mr. Lebel said the Quebec minister will get his answer – but all in good time.

"I'm wondering [about Mr. Cloutier's intentions]," Mr. Lebel said. "I've been a minister for five years and I've never released a letter like that one. Especially after such a short period."

The federal minister also said it would be easier to answer Quebec if the province came up with a specific financial request.

"If they want things to happen in writing, then they have to tell us in writing how much they're expecting from us. At this point, we don't have that."

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Mr. Cloutier responded that it's too early to provide such a number because issues other than decontamination need to be addressed.

"There's also the matter of the railway," he said in Quebec City. "Are we going to get involved in a project to divert the track away from the town?"

Mr. Cloutier hopes decontamination-related work can begin next month.

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