NEWS

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt to visit Lac-Mégantic disaster zone

07/17/2013 09:20 EDT | Updated 09/16/2013 05:12 EDT
New Transport Minister Lisa Raitt will visit the site of the massive train derailment and explosion in Lac- Mégantic, Que., today.

No details about her trip have been released, but Raitt is expected to speak at a news conference this afternoon with MP Christian Paradis, who represents Mégantic-Maple. Radio-Canada is reporting that no announcements about federal cash for rebuilding or relief are expected.

The province has pledged $60 million in immediate and short-term funds for those who were displaced or lost their homes and businesses in the disaster and for the town to start to rebuild. Quebec premier Pauline Marois said last week she has been in touch with the federal government, though no formal aid has been committed.

Marois has pushed for Ottawa to contribute because railways are a federal responsibility.

The former labour minister, Raitt was appointed to the transport porfolio in the cabinet shuffle this week.

Her visit comes a day after seven mayors from Quebec’s Eastern Townships demanded a meeting with the transport minister about the future of cargo rail through their communities.

The mayors represent cities and towns on the rail line used by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, the company that owns the train that rolled downhill and exploded in the centre of Lac-Mégantic early on July 6.

Elected officials from the cities of Sutton, Magog, Sherbrooke, Farnham, Lac-Mégantic, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Cowansville also want to set up a working committee with experts and the Quebec federation of municipalities to examine the coexistence of cities and trains.

The regional politicians were careful to say that despite the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, railways will remain an essential part of their local economies.

The death toll in the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster rose to 38 yesterday. Another 12 people are still missing and presumed dead.

A heat wave blanketing southwestern Quebec has made recovery and cleanup efforts difficult for workers. A cold front and thunderstorms are expected to push in this evening and bring some relief from the heat.

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