The federal government is moving to acquire land so that it can build a rail bypass in Lac-Megantic, Que., nearly 10 years after a downtown freight train derailment killed 47 people.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced that he made the difficult decision to expropriate land after the failure of negotiations to purchase property from local landowners.
The minister said a notice of intent to expropriate has been published in Quebec’s land registry, and landowners have been contacted by email and telephone to inform them of the notice.
Landowners can also expect to receive official notice by registered mail.
Alghabra said he understands that some property owners are angry about the decision, but the core objective is to stop trains from travelling through Lac-Megantic’s downtown, and prevent another disaster.
The decision to reroute the train tracks follows Alghabra’s visit to the region last month, when he met with community members and expressed the government’s desire to construct a bypass as soon as possible.
The rail disaster took place early in the morning on July 6, 2013, when an unattended freight train carrying crude oil derailed downtown and multiple cars exploded, killing 47 people and flattening 30 buildings.
In 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a plan to jointly fund a rail bypass with the government of Quebec.
Negotiations with landowners began in 2021, and the negotiation period was extended three times “to allow landowners more time to properly evaluate their offer, to use the services of experts and to obtain reports related to the value and sale of their property,” the minister said in his statement Monday evening.
“Unfortunately, for various reasons, the government of Canada has not been able to finalize purchase and sale agreements with all the landowners.”
Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek was the one to initiate the expropriation process, Alghabra’s statement said, and he promised that the government would be by landowners’ side throughout the process.
“I understand that some of the landowners are angry, saddened or anxious about this decision. Believe me, it was not taken lightly,” said Alghabra.
“The decision to proceed with the expropriation, as difficult as it is, is my commitment to the community members who want this project to move forward, especially as we mark the 10th anniversary of the tragedy in July of this year.”
Lac-Megantic Mayor Julie Morin had told The Canadian Press that she was reassured by the minister’s commitment to the project, upon his visit last month.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 2023.