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Ottawa pledges $60-million to rebuild devastated Quebec town

Crews continue to dig through the rubble inside the "red zone" in Lac-Mégantic, PQ on July 14, 2013.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Ottawa will provide $60-million toward the rebuilding of homes and businesses in the devastated community of Lac-Mégantic.

Speaking in Lac-Mégantic on Monday, local Conservative MP and International Development Minister Christian Paradis said he is delivering on his previous commitment to "be there" for the people affected by the deadly oil spill and the ensuing fire and explosions.

"We are present as we have said from the start," Mr. Paradis said as he was flanked by the city's mayor, Colette Roy-Laroche.

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Of the new federal funding, $25-million will go to the provincial government to reimburse expenses that were incurred during the first days of the tragedy. Mr. Paradis said that Ottawa "will continue to work" with the provincial government, signalling that more federal funds could be on their way as the costs continue to climb.

The rest of the money – $35-million – will go toward projects proposed by the community and local businesses, to be overseen by the federal government's agency in charge of economic diversification in the province.

"Some of the people here are wondering what the future has in store for them," Mr. Paradis said. "There is now a light at the end of the tunnel."

The federal government has been criticized for its slow response to the tragedy. The Quebec government quickly pledged $60-million in emergency help shortly after the train derailment that has left at least 47 people dead or missing.

"I applaud the Quebec government for having acted quickly, they were acting within their jurisdiction," Mr. Paradis said.

He added that there is no federal program to deal with this type of a catastrophe.

"This is a unique situation, and we hope that it will never happen again," he said.

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Meanwhile, more than 50 non-government organizations have joined forces to call on Ottawa to improve the safety of Canada's oil transportation system.

"Even as we mourn the dead, we must fight for the living," said Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "These measures cannot undo the damage done to Lac-Mégantic and other regions, but they can help reduce the risk of future disasters."

The coalition is calling for a ban on unsafe shipping oil in tankers such as the ones that carried the crude oil through the heart of Lac-Mégantic, and for a return to two-person train crews on trains, at a minimum.

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