Lac-Mégantic reconstruction gets $1.9M boost from Ottawa

The town of Lac-Mégantic, Que., marked a new chapter on Saturday with the inauguration of its Reconstruction Office and a funding announcement from the federal government.

Questions about diverting rail traffic around downtown area remain unanswered

Much of Lac-Mégantic's downtown core was destroyed when a train derailed in 2013, killing 47 people. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The town of Lac-Mégantic, Que., marked a new chapter on Saturday with the inauguration of its Reconstruction Office in the downtown area and a funding announcement from the federal government.

Located in Lac-Mégantic's historic train station, the Reconstruction Office will serve as an information centre and an access point for development projects and proposals for rebuilding the downtown core. (Radio-Canada )

Much of the downtown core was leveled when a freight train carrying oil derailed and exploded on July 6, 2013, killing 47 people. 

As Lac-Mégantic rebuilds from the disaster, the office will have an information centre on the reconstruction of the downtown area and it will serve as the access point for development project proposals.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau attended the inauguration, on behalf of Navdeep Singh Bains, the minister of innovation, science and economic development.

On his visit, Garneau announced that Ottawa will be investing $1.9 million over the next three years to help the town rebuild.

Community still waiting for answers

Saturday's event was the first time a federal minister has visited Lac-Mégantic since the Liberals came to power. Many locals were eager to ask questions they've had since the disaster happened more than two years ago. 

One major concern — will Transport Canada agree to divert the train tracks around the town?

The five-member reconstruction team (left to right) includes the head of communications and marketing Sonia Dumont, administrative assistant Céline Lippé, director Stéphane Lavallée, head of sustainable development Marie-Christine Picard and head of project management Roger Tremblay. (Reinventer La Ville / Town of Lac-Mégantic)

So far Transport Canada hasn't committed, and Garneau didn't offer much in the way of answers on Saturday.

"After the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, everyone in Canada is now realizing that there are railways that pass through their municipalities," he said.

"I've been receiving a lot of letters from municipalities asking to speak about the subject of rail safety. So it's something I take very seriously."

Working to boost sagging economy

Aside from the toll of the fatal derailment, the community of Lac-Mégantic is struggling with other challenges, including a sagging local economy and an aging population. 

The director of the Reconstruction Office, Stéphane Lavallée, said as the community rebuilds, they're also looking for ways to create new jobs and attract young people. 

"We think our project itself is a new possibility for people."

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