The decision from Quebec’s superior court was swift. But despite a Quebec Superior Court justice granting creditor protection to the railroad at the centre of the tragic Lac-Megantic disaster, it doesn’t mean the town will be on the hook for the cleanup.
Officials on provincial and federal levels vowed Thursday to make Montreal, Maine & Atlantic pay for the damage.
Quebec has registered as a “guaranteed collector,” Health Minister Réjean Hebert said, meaning the province could be able to collect payments from the railroad before other claimants.
“We registered as a guaranteed creditor first, in order to get back money from MM&A and get back money from the insurers,” Hebert told Global News Thursday. “We will do all the legal procedure needed to get back the money.”
Prior to Montreal, Maine & Atlantic’s bankruptcy-protection filing, the governments of Canada and Quebec were pressuring the company to foot the cleanup bill that has already reached close to $8 million. MM&A has estimated the costs could climb to $200 million.
On the heels of the Quebec court’s decision, federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said MM&A cannot walk away from Lac-Megantic.
“This announcement does not mean that MM&A is off the hook for their responsibilities to the people of Lac-Megantic,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “We will work with the province of Quebec to ensure that the clean-up continues and that the people of Lac-Megantic continue to receive the support they need.”
Ottawa has already announced $60 million to help with the recovery efforts.
The Quebec judge has given MM&A no more than 30 days to come back with a proposal on how it plans to deal with its liabilities and how it plans to disburse funds to its creditors – but there isn’t very much money to go around.
According to court documents, MM&A has just $18 million in assets in Canada, with another $50 million to $100 million in the United States.