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Quebec to seek $409-million from MM&A for Lac-Mégantic disaster

Crews work in the area of the derailed tanker cars in Lac-Mégantic, Que., on July 14, 2013.

PETER POWER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The Quebec government is adding its name to a list of creditors seeking money from the insolvent railway company at the heart of the Lac-Mégantic train disaster.

The government said Monday that it is seeking $409-million from the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway for expenses incurred, and yet to come, that stem from the tragedy.

The Justice Department said it filed a claim on June 13. In it, the government said it has already spent $126-million in public funds and suggests that future costs relating to the rebuilding of Lac-Mégantic could be in excess of $283-million.

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The government warned the latter amount could change depending on how much is actually spent.

Forty-seven people were killed after a runaway train hauling tanker cars loaded with volatile crude oil broke loose and barrelled into the town in the early morning hours of July 6.

A large swath of the community's downtown was completely destroyed.

Three employees and the insolvent company itself have been charged criminally in the case.

Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée said in a statement the government is exercising its right to recoup taxpayer money, but it also believes that the first people to be paid in the process should be the citizens of Lac-Mégantic themselves.

"We must act responsibly and take all legal options available to us to recover the maximum [amount]," Vallée said, adding an agreement with those responsible is the most favourable outcome.

"If those responsible for the disaster, some of which have very substantial financial resources, proposed an arrangement to creditors, the government could then rely [on it], without penalizing those affected and in the interests of Quebeckers who defrayed the costs through their taxes."

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In the event the total funds accessible are the $25-million in insurance money available to MM&A, the government has already promised those affected in Lac-Mégantic will be the sole beneficiaries, Vallée said.

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