Mess on Highway 13 : How Private Expertise Could Support Municipal Efforts


A serious lack of communication among municipal services, the Ministère des Transports and the Sûreté du Québec seems to have contributed to the infamous Highway-13 mess last March 14 and 15.

While nearly 300 car and truck drivers were bogged down in the snow on a part of the highway right in urban Montréal, calls to the government operations centre (COG) went practically unanswered.

The COG, created in 2006 under the responsibility of the Ministère de la Sécurité, has the mandate to anticipate events that could compromise public security by maintaining continuous surveillance over the territory, informing and warning the stakeholders concerned and coordinating operations during emergencies, crises or major disasters.

There is no doubt, however, the COG was unable to intervene and communicate effectively among the various services involved in the situation on Highway 13. The general conclusion is that there was a serious communication problem at every level, or so announced Florent Gagné, the external investigator appointed by the government to shed light on the mess, whose report is expected at the end of May.

How the private sector can contribute to public security

Could private players, such as the Commissionaires, contribute more during events that become public security issues? Back in 1998 and 1999, the Canadian Armed Forces were called in to support the local authorities during the ice storm in Québec and the massive snowstorm in Toronto.

It is likely that many members of the Armed Forces who were part of the intervention troops at that time are now working with the Commissionaires. Their leading-edge expertise in protecting people and property could be turned to good account in future emergencies.

The Commissionnaires du Québec offers a complete range of services that would allow municipalities and police services to improve quality of life for residents, particularly in terms of traffic control, the enforcement of municipal bylaws, crime scene security and managing photo radar.