The Legault government refused to pay the $41 million requested by Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac for the work on the dike which gave way in April 2019, until the City agrees to become its owner.
“We will release the funds when he [the mayor] signs the agreement, not before,” said Sylvie D’Amours, MP for the riding of Mirabel for the Coalition Avenir Québec.
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This is the first time that Quebec has adopted such a clear-cut position regarding the dike, the breakage of which led to the evacuation of 6,000 people in 2019.
Since these sad events, the City has been struggling to get its head above water. It is involved in a standoff with the government over the financing of the reinforcement works and the ownership of the dike.
The infrastructure has belonged to the provincial government since its construction in the late 1970s. But since the end of the reinforcement work in 2020, Quebec claims that the dike now belongs to Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, a question which the courts will have to consider.
Mayor François Robillard explained to the media that he refuses the terms of the work financing agreement submitted by Quebec, which stipulates that the City will become the owner of the wall. He claims that by signing the document, he would absolve the government of any future liability regarding the dyke.”That’s blackmail. I am ready to negotiate in good faith, but the terms must be clear,” he said.
To date, the City has had to take out loans totaling $51 million in connection with the dike since 2019. “Currently, we are taking money from our taxpayers to give it to a bank, which makes no sense. », said the mayor.
The interest on the loan has doubled since the beginning of the year, going from $60,000 to $120,000 per month, one can read in a letter he sent to the local residents.
“I sympathize with Mr. Robillard, but the government cannot make an exception for his city. Deux-Montagnes and Saint-Joseph-du-Lac have signed the same agreement [for dikes on their territory],” retorts Ms. d’Amours.
At the same time, legal proceedings brought by residents and insurers against the City, which amount to more than $45 million, have still not been settled.
The dike history
April 27, 2019: the dike gave way and flooded Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac.
May 10, 2019: the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Andrée Laforest, informs the City that in the event of an agreement between Quebec and Ottawa, she will be reimbursed 80% of eligible expenses for the reconstruction of the dike. This agreement will never be concluded.
From August 15, 2019 to April 11, 2022: the City is borrowing $53 million for the repair of the dike, as well as the construction and maintenance of the new wall.
September 14, 2022: the City plans to increase the loan to $55 million.