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Quebec opposition parties call for transport minister’s resignation after Highway 13 pile-up

Click to play video 'Fire Quebec transport minister for storm ‘fiasco,’ demands opposition' Fire Quebec transport minister for storm ‘fiasco,’ demands opposition
WATCH ABOVE: Opposition parties in Quebec City are calling on Premier Philippe Couillard to remove transport minister Laurent Lessard for mishandling what they call a “storm fiasco” after the province was blanketed by snow. Global's Raquel Fletcher reports.

Opposition parties in Quebec City are calling on premier Philippe Couillard to remove transport minister Laurent Lessard for mishandling what they call the “storm fiasco.”

“A minister of transport, after a night of crisis, should have been up very early – if he had slept at all,” insisted Parti Québécois (PQ) Leader Jean-François Lisée.

“He should have been here at 6 a.m. to tell you the rundown of what had happened, what needs to happen, how the thing is managed.”

Hundreds of people driving on Highway 13, between Highways 20 and 40, were stuck for 12 hours without any help Tuesday night.

According to Sûreté du Québec (SQ) spokesperson Stéphane Tremblay, about 300 cars were stranded after a huge pile-up caused by a jackknifed tractor-trailer.

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READ MORE: Massive pile-up on Highway 13 strands hundreds of drivers overnight

The premier said he has fired a ministry employee, arguing the government department was not informed of the problem until mid-morning Wednesday.

“Both my colleagues were not notified at all of anything until the next morning,” argued Couillard.

“So, it’s a little too much to say they should have been out there taking care of people. I’m sure if they had known, Mr. [public security minister Martin] Coiteux and Mr. Lessard would have been out there with the authorities.”

Lessard insisted he believed the process to deal with massive storms was working well, but there was an apparent break down in coordination.

Couillard apologized Thursday, expressing his sympathies for those injured, as well as those who died in storm-related events.

READ MORE: Quebec City sees worst March storm since 2008

Provincial police reportedly asked for assistance at 2:15 a.m., but failed to follow up, according to Ian Ritchie, chief of operations for the Montreal fire department.

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The fire department then headed out on its own to help those stuck on the road.

Quebec’s Transport Ministry said the clearing operation was a shared responsibility among the fire department, the Sûreté du Québec and the ministry.

READ MORE: Snowstorm wreaks havoc on Quebec highways

Wednesday, Couillard called it an exceptional situation, but added that wasn’t an excuse for the lack of a coordinated response.

“It’s an exceptional situation, but with an exceptional situation there should clearly be an exceptional response. It’s a major event,” he said.

“The fact that things don’t happen very often doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be better prepared when they do happen. We have to take the lessons from this now and do better — much better — next time around.”