Negotiate with one voice

Negotiations with the owners who will be affected by the route of the bypass in Lac-Mégantic will soon start. The Union of Agricultural Producers of Estrie (UPA) and the Union of Forest Producers of Southern Quebec (SPFSQ) wish to unite to negotiate with one single voice on behalf of the forty or so owners.
“The government has strongly suggested that it wishes to negotiate by mutual agreement with each of the owners and in these situations, they are quite poor, admits André Roy, president of the SPFSQ. It has been the norm in Quebec for a few years to bargain collectively when a public infrastructure project affects dozens of homeowners. There have been agreements at a discount and the owners have had fun fifteen years ago when installing the first wind turbines. Serious agreements began when the unions got involved. “

According to Transport Minister Marc Garneau, the federal authorities will soon reach an agreement with the 44 landowners who will have to hand over the approximately 80 lands affected by the bypass route. Mr. Garneau is hopeful that the work will be completed by 2022.

This joint negotiation would allow the owners to fight on equal terms with the government, according to François Bourassa, president of UPA-Estrie.

“On the one hand, there is the government with well-prepared lawyers and on the other hand, there is a producer sitting at his kitchen table without a lawyer,” he laments. It is better to regroup. When the official route is in place, we will contact the affected producers and we will present them our service. They are free to join or not. ”

” What we will likely do is to take two or three owners and receive them within the bargaining committee to ensure the transparency of the process and trust will remain, “says André Roy .

Mr. Bourassa points out that it is often the small details that cause problems as a result of the agreement.

“If the railway goes to the center of a farm for example and there are fields on each side, we do not want in a year or two the producer has to pay to cross as it has been since little for snowmobilers and all-terrain vehicles that have to pay to cross a railway line. There are many things like that that are to be verified. We wish it to be done in harmony. It will not happen without some inconvenience to some municipalities and some producers. We hope to minimize these disadvantages. ”

Beyond the market value

For André Roy, one of the essential points of the negotiations is to go beyond the market value of the properties.

“There are many other things to consider in a negotiation that simply market value,” he says. We know that the route will cross some maple groves. Market value is about $ 100 a cut, but maple trees around the track may dry out due to changes. We must take into account the losses of future productions and also the disadvantages suffered by the owners because they will live the rest of their day with these infrastructures. It is not realistic to rely solely on market value. ”

One of these owners, Michel Dallaire, struggled to contain his wrath on Friday by telling reporters that the new road would cut his land in two.

“My land is finished, it’s worthless,” complained Mr. Dallaire, who has owned the lot for 17 years. I’m not big, but it’ll take a bulldozer to get me moving from there. ”

During his address Friday Justin Trudeau acknowledged that it was impossible to find a nice solution for everyone.

“When you move a railway, you move it from one place to another. There is private land all around the city and it is clear that the new path will impact some people, he said. But we believe we have chosen the best path to move forward. ”

Ottawa has also reached an agreement with the project proponent, Central Maine & Quebec Railway. The railway company, born from the ruins of Montreal Maine and Atlantic (MMA), will operate the new infrastructure, which it will also own, according to Prime Minister Trudeau’s office.

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