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Ottawa to fund Lac-Mégantic business loans

An view of the town from the look out point in Lac Megantic, May 13, 2014.

Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail

The federal government finalized plans Friday on a $3-million fund to help businesses in Lac-Mégantic still struggling nearly a year after an oil train crashed into its downtown core.

With much of the new shopping plaza on the edge of the blackened downtown still empty, the fund will be parcelled out in $250,000 loans to businesses, according to Ginette Isabelle, the director of Lac-Mégantic's community development group. The fund is part of a larger, $35-million aid package first announced in December.

"A lot of people will need this help," Ms. Isabelle said. "No one is helping with start-up capital right now, so we're going to help make sure local businesses have money in their bank accounts to cover their first bills."

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In the early morning of July 6, 2013, an unmanned oil train operated by Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway careened into the small town and derailed. Within minutes, a series of powerful explosions killed 47 people and flattened buildings in Canada's deadliest modern rail accident.

Over the past year, a number of businesses in town have complained about the delays and bureaucracy they have faced while applying for aid. In late May, Lac-Mégantic's mayor announced that the town would use some of the public donations made after the disaster to help speed the slow recovery.

A working program was needed to distribute the loans in the community before the money could be made available, Ms. Isabelle said of the six-month delay since the funds were first announced.

The rebuilding of the bar where most of the town's victims were killed has been repeatedly delayed over the past six months as owner Yannick Gagné has waited for assistance. The unfinished Musi-Café will miss the disaster's first anniversary and is expected to open in September.

"This will help us a lot, we really need this type of good news," Mr. Gagné said.

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About the Author
Ontario legislative reporter

Based in Toronto, Justin Giovannetti is The Globe and Mail’s Ontario legislative reporter. He previously worked out of the newspaper’s Edmonton, Toronto and B.C. bureaus. He is a graduate of Montreal’s Concordia University and has also worked for CTV in Quebec. More

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