POLITICS

Raitt promises to help Lac-Megantic with reconstruction

07/17/2013 04:03 EDT | Updated 09/16/2013 05:12 EDT
The federal government is promising to help Lac-Mégantic in its reconstruction efforts, but hasn't said yet how much financial aid it will contribute.

Newly appointed Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said Wednesday while visiting the small community in Quebec's Eastern Townships that she was there to get a first-hand look at the devastation and better understand its scope.

"You can count on the federal government to be supportive and that we will be here to help with reconstruction, and whatever way the province and the municipality wants us to be there," Raitt said.

Raitt, who speaks little French, was accompanied by Christian Paradis, the member of Parliament for Mégantic–L'Érable, Que., who until Monday was the minister responsible for Quebec.

Paradis has been the face of the federal government on the ground since the accident, caused by the derailment of a train that was carrying crude oil.

On Monday, he was appointed minister for international development, moving him from the industry portfolio.

Raitt, who faced high expectations for her visit, came right out of the gate and addressed her lack of French head on.

"I admit my French is not as good as yours. However, I hope you'll see my sorrow and preoccupation for your well-being," Raitt said.

Her comments ellicited a small chuckle from Paradis, who quickly regained his composure as Raitt forged on.

The new transport minister was asked several times how much financial help the federal government would contribute, but she would not say.

She explained that the difficulty lies in quantifying what the needs are.

Raitt's visit comes a day after seven mayors from Quebec's Eastern Townships called for a meeting with her to discuss rail safety concerns.

The Mayor of Lac-Mégantic, Colette Roy-Laroche, said she will be meeting with Raitt later in the day and will ask the federal minister for financial aid to help with various infrastructure projects

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has pledged $60 million in immediate and short-term aid. She has pushed for Ottawa to contribute because railways are a federal responsibility.

Following Monday's cabinet shuffle, Harper was asked whether it was appropriate to appoint Raitt, a unilingual anglophone, to transport given the crisis in Quebec.

Harper replied he had great confidence in Raitt and that she would serve all Canadians well.

The prime minister added that Denis Lebel, the minister for infrastructure, would be involved in the reconstruction efforts.