Over the past month I have visited most of the RCMP detachments in South Okanagan-West Kootenay. While the conversations covered some of the obvious law and order issues such as marijuana legalization, rising levels of property crime and staffing levels for highway patrol, I was surprised that one issue dominated most of my visits—declining morale in the force.
The RCMP is one of the best-known police forces in the world: the red serge at ceremonies, the musical ride. Many young men and women have joined the RCMP to be a part of that proud tradition, but now many are increasingly disappointed with their positions.
The root cause of much of this discontent is years of cost-cutting that has resulted in unfair compensation and understaffing. RCMP members used to be among the top three forces in Canada when it came to pay, and it’s easy to see why they deserved it—many remote postings and frequent transfers around the country, all on top of the long hours, night shifts and dangerous work that police forces encounter everywhere. But the RCMP is now at the bottom of the heap—they rank 72 out of 80 police forces across the country in terms of compensation.
Recently the NDP learned that a pay raise recommendation for RCMP members, which has been held up at the Treasury Board since 2015, will not be given any further consideration ahead of other public service wage requests. This is in spite of the outpouring of concern from RCMP members themselves about working conditions within the force and the compensation members receive for their work.
Morale is at an all-time low, fewer men and women want to join the RCMP, and members are leaving for other police forces. Why stay when you can make significantly more in Delta, Vancouver or Calgary, work in well-staffed teams and not have to deal with periodic transfers? As a result, RCMP detachments are often understaffed for significant periods of time.
While the government refuses to act on a January 2015 RCMP Pay Council report entitledFair Compensation for the RCMP that recommended significant wage increases for members, RCMP top brass were given $1.7 million in bonuses this year. Frontline members received nothing.
My colleague Daniel Blaikie, MP for Elmwood-Transcona, recently asked the Treasury Board when and how action will be taken on this front. The answer he received was that pay increases for the RCMP will be “considered in the broad context of the Government approach to compensation determination in the public service”. In contradiction to the Minister, Treasury Board staff at committee admitted that RCMP compensation should be considered in the context of “comparators with other police forces”.
“RCMP members have been unfairly treated by the Liberals and the government’s silence on their pay raise adds insult to injury,” said Blaikie. “Unfortunately this silence will further add to the frustration of RCMP members. They want respect instead, and they deserve it.”
Canadians deserve an RCMP force that is worthy of our pride and expectations, but the government and all Canadians must be prepared to pay fairly for that service.