Mr. Speaker, the member for Trois-Rivieres is clearly concerned about the plight of homeowners in Mauricie and other regions of Quebec whose foundations contain pyrrhotite.
I commend him for that, and I am pleased to confirm for the House that progress is finally being made on this difficult issue. This is a longstanding problem that my colleagues from Saint-Maurice—Champlain and Laurentides—Labelle have spoken to me about on this side of the House.
After a decade of inaction by the previous government, the government finally announced in budget 2016 that we would provide up to $30 million over three years. I will repeat for the hon. member that it is $30 million over three years, starting this year, to help homeowners who are dealing with the consequences of pyrrhotite.
As the member for Trois-Rivieres knows, on July 11, our government and the Government of Quebec announced that an agreement had been signed to provide this assistance to affected homeowners, beginning this fiscal year. As we said at the time, families must get the help they need as soon as possible to deal with this economic and human tragedy.
This is why the federal government worked so closely with the Government of Quebec, so that funding would be distributed through an existing provincial program. As a result of this agreement, the Société d'habitation du Québec, or SHQ, was given the go-ahead to commit the federal funds through the existing Quebec program to indemnify homeowners who have been impacted by pyrrhotite.
The first $10 million in federal funding was immediately available upon signing of the agreement. According to the SHQ's estimates, this initial federal contribution will benefit some 130 homeowners. The SHQ undertook to inform its municipal partners of the budgets that will be made available to them, so they could quickly begin to work the approval process with impacted homeowners.
The member for Trois-Rivieres should never have doubted the government's commitment to help homeowners repair or replace foundations damaged by pyrrhotite, which can cause swelling and deterioration over time as concrete slabs are exposed to water.
When the Prime Minister visited the Mauricie region during the election, he acknowledged that the people struggling with the pyrrhotite problem were victims of a tragedy. Through no fault of their own, their basement foundations were failing. To show his solidarity with the people of Mauricie and underscore his commitment to provide federal assistance, the Prime Minister returned to the area in April to confirm the $30 million in federal assistance.
It is worth noting that the Government of Canada bears no responsibility or liability for this situation. Two years ago, the Quebec Superior Court concluded that professional technical consultants, suppliers, and contractors involved in the supply of the faulty concrete were responsible for this calamity.
While there is no legal obligation for the Government of Canada to provide assistance, we will not stand by and ignore the plight of affected homeowners, who continue to suffer financial hardship due to the mistakes and carelessness of others. The problem is serious, the solution costly, and our government is doing its part to help the affected families.