Harper commits up to $95 million for Lac-Megantic decontamination

LAC-MEGANTIC, – Ottawa and Quebec shared a rare moment of unity on Thursday with news they will each spend up to $95 million to help decontaminate Lac-Megantic’s water and soil.

“Today, I am announcing that the government is making available up to $95 million to offset the costs of decontamination,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a news conference in the community.

“This sum corresponds to 50 per cent of the cost estimates of the Quebec government.”

Vast quantities of crude oil seeped into soil and waterways in and around Lac-Megantic last July when a train carrying the fuel careened off the tracks, smashed into a cafe and destroyed much of the community’s downtown core.

Forty-seven people were identified through their remains, while those of a handful of other people were never found.

“My friends, I know there is no amount of money that can erase the painful memories…but you have to know that our government is doing everything in its power to support you,” said Harper, who was accompanied by local MP Christian Paradis and Lac-Megantic Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche.

It was Harper’s third visit to the town since the tragedy.

In Quebec City, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister reacted positively to Thursday’s announcement, even though no Quebec government representatives were present.

“We’re happy that at the end of the day we’ll share the bill with the federal government,” Cloutier said.

And Cloutier said he has no reason to disbelieve Harper when he said Ottawa would be present for the entire clean-up and rebuilding process.

“I’m convinced he said the truth at the press conference.”

Roy-Laroche, who was a daily picture of calm in the aftermath of the tragedy, also welcomed news of the funding.

“Today’s announcement is coming at the right time,” she said. “With winter and the holiday period around the corner, we really needed some good news.”

Roy-Laroche said the decontamination process will begin soon after a call for tenders and that it will last at least 18 months. About 40 per cent of the decontaminated soil has been excavated.

The $95 million in federal funds is on top of $60 million in assistance Ottawa committed earlier this year.