House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.

Topics

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the third reading of Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, to validate certain calculations and to amend other Acts.

I am proud of this bill for a number of reasons and pleased that all parties expressed support for the bill at second reading, in particular because it reinforces the work now underway to strengthen and modernize the RCMP.

Hon. colleagues will know that as Minister of Public Safety, strengthening and modernizing the RCMP is one of the minister's priorities, as it is a priority for all of us as Canadians. That is why this bill is important.

The House supported improvements like these many years ago and it moved forward in passing legislation to help implement them, but those legislative changes did not authorize all the necessary regulations. Therefore, today these improvements remain long overdue. If we can better support the men and women who have chosen to serve Canadians through the RCMP, I believe we should because better supporting the RCMP means better supporting the safety and security of Canadians.

The RCMP is Canada's leading law enforcement agency in the battle against drugs, organized crime and terrorism. It investigates economic crime and fraud, child exploitation and serves some 600 aboriginal communities and 200 municipalities as local police. The RCMP is also responsible for provincial and territorial policing in all jurisdictions except Quebec and Ontario, which have their own forces.

It runs its own academy in Regina and the Canadian Police College in Ottawa. Police officers from all over Canada and beyond can take advanced and specialized training at this facility. The RCMP maintains key support services that are critical to Canadian law enforcement, like informational databases, forensic labs and identification services, as well as technical operations. Its members protect the Canadian Prime Minister, Her Excellency the Governor General, as well as visiting dignitaries and Canadian diplomats in foreign countries.

The RCMP co-ordinates and takes part in the participation of Canadian police offices in UN peacekeeping missions. It works with the Canadian Forces and other federal and international partners to bring security to fragile and fallen states. The RCMP helps secure our borders and steer Canada's young people away from crime. More than 7,500 people will call the RCMP today for assistance. That is 2.8 million requests for service a year.

In international law enforcement circles, the Mounties continue to enjoy a reputation as one of the best and most unique police services anywhere in the world. We have much to be proud of in the RCMP and its members, who have sworn a duty to protect Canada and Canadians in their communities.

At the same time, the RCMP is not without its challenges, challenges it is working hard to overcome. Many of these were outlined in the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP in a public report to the Minister of Public Safety a little more than a year ago. The report identified a number of cultural, structural and organizational issues within the force and made 49 recommendations for improvement.

The RCMP is working diligently on a comprehensive transformation plan to realize its vision of being an adaptive, accountable, trusted organization of fully engaged employees demonstrating outstanding leadership and providing world-class police services.

A modernized pension plan supports the RCMP's commitment to effective human resources management as part of its change agenda. It can contribute to making the RCMP the very best police service it can be, which benefits us all. With a myriad of duties and security challenges, the RCMP leverages a blend of skills to keep Canadians safe.

To quote from the task force report, it states:

Well-trained front line officers, highly skilled scientists, sophisticated intelligence and communications experts, experts in financial management and logistics, competent human resource managers, perceptive and thoughtful trainers and coaches--all are necessary to enable the Force to perform its whole portfolio of different tasks.

To that, let me add that recommendation 31 of the report dealing with educational prerequisites reads in part:

The RCMP needs to demonstrate greater openness and willingness to accept lateral entry into the Force in order to provide needed specialized skill sets and experience.

As hon. members know, the RCMP is taking its change mandate quite seriously and moving full steam ahead toward its vision for change, a vision that sees it better serving Canadians, better supporting its people, and better preparing itself for the policing needs and challenges of tomorrow.

What has the RCMP achieved in terms of change? It has established a full-time change management team led at the assistant commissioner level and developed a change management plan, as I mentioned, that it is actively pursuing. It is investing in leadership development and has re-established the position of chief learning officer at the senior level to work with its chief human resources officer.

It has restructured management at national headquarters and made key personnel adjustments throughout the force. It re-established the position of commanding officer at headquarters to directly support and oversee the thousands of people who help the RCMP front-line officers do their jobs across the country.

It has hired an executive director of public affairs to support clear and timely communication with Canadians and the media. It has stepped up its national recruiting campaign and improved key policies dealing with officer safety and use of force.

I could go on but instead I will refer to the second report of the Reform Implementation Council, which was released this past March. The council is an independent body appointed to advise and report on the RCMP's change management process. This report reaffirms the positive progress of RCMP reform.

At the conclusion of that report, it states:

The Force is working hard to strengthen its own leadership and management capabilities, while addressing such critical issues as reconciling workload with capacity. But it cannot be fully and effectively reformed without the continuing commitment of the government and the support of the central agencies.

It continues later to state:

All concerned—and certainly the members of the Council—now understand better the challenges facing the RCMP and the scope and complexity of reform. But the Council believes the Force has the capacity to make the required changes to its management and culture, and we have no doubt that senior leaders are prepared to do what is necessary to succeed.

In short, while the council, as well as the RCMP, I might add, both recognize there is much more to do, they also recognize that a great deal has already been accomplished.

However, our primary focus today is on the merits of Bill C-18 and its importance to the RCMP and its members. Bill C-18 proposes several technical amendments to the RCMP Superannuation Act to improve pension portability and, ultimately, bring the act in line with the federal public service pension plan, as well as other public and private sector plans across Canada.

The proposed amendments would: allow for the expansion of existing election for prior service provisions so that regular and civilian members of the force can purchase pension credits from other public and private sector pension plans across Canada; allow the RCMP to enter into pension transfer agreements with other pension plans in order to permit the transfer of pension credits into and out of the RCMP pension plan; and clarify and improve some administrative and eligibility aspects of the existing act, such as those related to part-time employment and the cost of elections for prior service with a police force that was taken over by the RCMP.

The amendments before us today are about fairness and flexibility. They will put each member of the RCMP on an equal footing in terms of pension portability. That is not the case under the current rules. Today, the 24,000 members of the RCMP whose pensions are governed by the RCMP Superannuation Act do not have the same pension choices as their 6,300 colleagues whose pensions fall under the Public Service Superannuation Act even though they are all public servants.

Today, people who work for the RCMP and whose pension is governed by the Public Service Superannuation Act have a pension that can follow them to the RCMP from other departments and levels of government, even from some private sector employers. They may be able to leave with their pension if they explore other federal or public sector opportunities. The other 24,000 members of the RCMP currently have pensions without that same level of portability.

Bill C-18 proposes to address that discrepancy by providing these RCMP members with the same pension choices currently available to public service employees in the federal government, as well as to members of many provincial and municipal forces.

Expanded pension portability may, in some cases, mean that the value of future pension benefits for members of the RCMP whose pensions currently fall under the RCMP Superannuation Act might be increased. It might also help these members qualify for survivor benefits for their spouses or partners and improve the value of that benefit in some cases. As well, the proposed amendments will mean that they can qualify for retirement at an earlier age, if they are eligible and wish to do so.

An additional aspect to the amendments proposed by Bill C-18 is that the enhanced portability provisions may help to strengthen current recruitment efforts, an issue that is top of mind for the RCMP at the moment given their target of achieving a net increase of 1,000 additional police and civilian staff by 2013.

Enhanced pension portability has the potential to make the RCMP a more attractive career choice for Canadians working in other fields or even as members of other police forces. In this way, Bill C-18 supports many of the existing initiatives already under way to help the RCMP recruit more officers.

I would like to respond to a few concerns raised by hon. members during debate at second reading of the bill. One was that time spent as a cadet at the RCMP training academy in Regina is not pensionable service. The issue here is that the new pension rules would allow the RCMP to recognize prior service with other employers as pensionable time, including that from other police forces who may count their officers' training time toward pension provided they were actually employees of another police service during their training periods.

The difference with the RCMP is that RCMP cadets are not sworn in as police officers and, as such, are not in the employ of the RCMP until they pass their 24 weeks of training at Regina. The RCMP pension plan is available only to employees of the force, so the time spent at depot is not pensionable as current service.

It is not possible to introduce a new provision within Bill C-18 to permit the cadet training time to be purchased as a prior service event because it does not meet the requirements of the Income Tax Act that govern registered pension plans. There is an explicit tax rule that states that any prior service must be a period throughout which the member was actually employed in order to be eligible for purchase.

Another issue at second reading was whether Bill C-18 would help recruit aboriginal people or members of Indian band police.

I am pleased to confirm to the House that Bill C-18 would allow pensionable service under another Canadian pension plan registered under the Income Tax Act to be recognized under the RCMP pension plan. Regardless of where a potential recruit originates, if he or she was a member of a registered pension plan, employment with the RCMP may become more attractive once that pension is transferable.

There were also questions about the financial impact of Bill C-18. The estimated program cost for these initiatives are $1.1 million. Elections for prior federal government service already exist. Consequently, many administrative tools are already in place for the new type of prior service provisions. The administrative costs associated with the changes are derived from existing RCMP reference levels in the RCMP pension plan. No additional financial resources are required.

Further, under the proposed amendments, the actuarial cost of purchasing prior service is borne entirely by the plan member. In the case of a pension transfer agreement, pension funds are transferred directly from the previous employer. For a transfer into the RCMP pension plan, if there is a shortfall between the demand for funds made by the RCMP and the amount for transfer from the previous plan, the plan member will have the opportunity to purchase the balance.

The bill before us is long overdue. Some hon. members will know that the new elective service and pension portability options proposed by Bill C-18 were intended to be implemented in legislation that received royal assent in 1999. What is before us today is, therefore, an opportunity to set things right and grant the government the necessary authority missing from the original legislation in order to implement these measures.

I urge all hon. members to once again rise in support of Bill C-18 and to send a strong message of support to the dedicated men and women of the RCMP who touch so many lives and who play such a vital role in making our communities safer for everyone.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary with whom I have had the honour to work over the past couple of years on a good number of files.

On his last comment with respect to fairness and helping RCMP officers, I wonder if he could explain to Canadians and to RCMP members how helpful it was to the RCMP officers when his government decided, because there was no collective bargaining for RCMP members, to draw down the anticipated wage increase that they were to get.

I recognize, of course, that this may be beyond the mechanics of the issue, but how encouraging can it be for RCMP members to know that his government rolled back their wages when most other police services in this country could not and did not see a similar action? How does that bode for morale in the RCMP?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is an opportunity to talk about Bill C-18, a bill to modernize and to bring into the current status the pension portability rights of the RCMP members. My hon. colleague knows full well that it was not done during the former government's time. His government had the opportunity to do it way back in 1999 but it did not do it. This is an opportunity for people here to make right what was missed in that previous legislation and I certainly hope everyone in the House will support it.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, many of us support the idea of portability. We note that in other jurisdictions and in other professions, one of the things that helps with portability is having similar benchmarks and frameworks. This is crucial because when we are getting into contributions and years of service, it is necessary to have seniority understood so that the nomenclature is right and we understand what we are talking about.

As an example, here on the Hill we have people who transcribe and drive messages around with our courier service who, sadly, are not given seniority acknowledgement for their work. Scheduling is a mess on the Hill and it is an issue we need to deal with.

Does the parliamentary secretary believe that giving the RCMP the right to form a union would help with this exercise? We know that when they are coming from a police service in another jurisdiction that has the right to organize, it would make their contracts a lot more concrete and fluid, and would help to make Bill C-18 even better than the proposition already is.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the hon. member would find his way to support Bill C-18 which is before the House. This bill would fix a problem that was created, perhaps inadvertently, and I am certain it was, but it would allow RCMP members the opportunity for portability.

As I mentioned earlier, passing this bill would give RCMP officers opportunities to perhaps buy time that would then allow them to retire early, if possible. It also provides that if they utilize these provisions, survivor benefits would increase in some cases.

This is just an excellent bill and I hope everyone in the House sees their way toward supporting it.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we support this amendment to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act but, quite fortuitously and coincidentally, this morning I introduced a private member's bill to provide for educational benefits for the spouses and children of RCMP officers, federal law enforcement officers, who die in the line of duty.

Every morning we all get up, get ready to go to work and say goodbye to our families. We work hard. We work according to the rules and we know that at the end of the day we will return to our families and our safe communities. However, we have those safe communities because there are those who take on the role of ensuring that those who do not play according to the rules are prevented from endangering the lives of our families and the safety of our communities. When they say goodbye in the morning, sometimes those law enforcement officials may be saying goodbye forever. It is a tough job.

As I said, it is quite fortuitous that this has come up this morning. I would like to know the parliamentary secretary's opinion on whether or not he would also consider bringing fairness to this particular area and help to propose legislation that would address this particular, very poignant issue.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member, if he were to read through Bill C-18, would see that it does just that. It does bring fairness to a number of areas within the RCMP.

I recognize his comments and I am well aware of those comments. I have lived that, as members of my family are living it today, but this is about Bill C-18, a bill that would bring fairness to members of the RCMP and perhaps members of the RCMP who wish to transfer to other forces at the same time. It does give that portability. I think that if members in the House were to read Bill C-18, they would see that it is about creating a fairer, more level playing field for all police in Canada.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

May 12th, 2009 / 10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to speak on Bill An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, to validate certain calculations and to amend other Acts

It is understood that our party will be in favour of this bill, although it is now at the third reading stage. The parliamentary secretary who spoke on it a few minutes ago will recognize that what we are looking at affords us a real opportunity to address a major issue, the whole matter of the treatment of the hard-working men and women in the ranks of the RCMP who represent one aspect of our country. We have great recognition on the international level in this respect.

The bill before us today provides us with an opportunity to move ahead with respect to transformation of pensions to ensure there is portability for members of the RCMP, something which has been quite rightly pointed out as long overdue. It also gives us an opportunity to expand on the real concerns that underlie the current status of the men and women in the RCMP who continue to do us proud each and every day.

It is not lost on us on the opposition side that when a government comes to power claiming that it is going to hire 2,500 new police officers across the country and fails to deliver means that we cannot pick and choose or that we are going to support this or ignore that, or that we are going to get around to it some point down the road.

We can have all the good legislation we want crafted by this great Parliament, but if it is not properly enforced, or if we are underresourcing our ability to meet the objectives of Canadians for safe streets and safe homes, something that our party campaigned on and certainly has a good track record on, then it seems to me these kinds of bills would simply be moot.

I am obviously concerned about the legislation itself. While an important first step, thankfully, a number of other glaring problems were raised in committee. This is why we have committees. They allow us the opportunity to sit back and to look at some of the other objections that are brought forward.

We heard very able testimony from witnesses at committee. We heard from Mr. Gaétan Delisle, a man who has fought very hard to ensure that morale is restored within the RCMP, but he is by no means the only one. There are others, like the British Columbia Mounted Police Professional Association, and people like Pete Merrifield, a great constable and an individual who ran for the Conservative Party many years ago. All underscored through their own efforts and trials, and regrettably their own pain, some of the problems the RCMP is facing.

I do not want to be Pollyannaish about this. This is an important piece of legislation, but it is only one step in terms of fixing morale within the RCMP.

Two years ago a study was conducted in which it was determined that fully 80% of the rank and file members of the RCMP felt that their jobs were undervalued and underappreciated. How can they be blamed when the Conservative government responded by cutting back their wages even though they made a promise in June of last year?

These are very difficult times to have a wage rollback. Rank and file members of the RCMP are not protected, but senior officials within the RCMP are able to continue to get merit pay and bonus pay. This is, to my understanding and to any objective analyst's understanding, an example of some of the glaring problems that exist within the RCMP.

The importance of this legislation is found in the fact that a member of a police service that is absorbed who has had the time and the pension given to or earned by the member would be able to have that transferred and recognized under the RCMP superannuation fund. That is a very laudable goal, but it creates obvious and very distinct problems. It has been raised in committee. I certainly raised it and it was raised by witnesses. It is conceivable that a new member of the RCMP coming from another service would have a greater pension than an RCMP officer with a tenure of many years, certainly since the changes in 1994 because the six months in which the member is in training is not calculated as part of the member's pension.

There is unfinished business here. I tried to encourage the parliamentary secretary to take the message to his government that for our party it remains unfinished business and that he should undertake at least to do what he could to ensure that the gap is amended. We were told that the gap is there because when the legislation was drafted, it was thought that the income tax regulations could not be amended, and that in fact is correct. However, Parliament speaks and regulations follow. Regulations could easily have been changed or anticipated given the magnitude of the problem, which all members of Parliament understand.

I know that our colleagues in the NDP and the Bloc Québécois are well aware of that gap.

Unfortunately, this bill does not allow enough changes. What really needs to be addressed is the bigger question of equality among the services as far as pensions are concerned.

Over a number of years I have been concerned about the discrepancy that may exist between civilian members of the RCMP and members on the front line. Both jobs are valued. Both jobs are interdependent. Both jobs are necessary. Yet, it is conceivable here as well that there is a system for one and a system for the other. I am concerned that while with Bill C-18 we perhaps do not have the opportunity to fix these problems, it is important to illustrate the problems to ensure that we do not wait another eight or nine years to address what is for many in the RCMP a problem that sticks out like a sore thumb.

We all recognize that this bill is an important first step in strengthening the RCMP. However, I have some serious concerns about the government's commitment to seeing the legislation through. I mentioned several points that I think have to be considered. I have talked about the new crime legislation in the past. It can only be of worth if it is backed up with the appropriate enforcement. It is important for us to ensure that we do not fall into the trap of rhetoric as opposed to action.

I am hearing from the government that we should move ahead with this and everything will simply take care of itself. Frankly, this was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of addressing wider problems with Canada's national police force. It is important for all Canadians to recognize that much more work needs to be done. This party is very serious about doing that.

Over the past several years I have worked with members in the other place to ensure that the issue of collective bargaining is front and centre. In the next few days I am hoping to be able to present a proposal that I hope the government will consider, certainly in light of what we have seen in terms of RCMP recruitment, but also in light of the decision that was made just over a month ago, which unfortunately, the government appealed. It basically said that from a constitutional perspective, the right of collective bargaining and association must be extended to members of the RCMP.

I was at Highland Creek Public School in my riding last week. On one side of the grade eight classroom was the history of the North West Mounted Police from 1873 on. I raised the concern that many of the RCMP members are not treated in quite the same way as other police forces, certainly in our jurisdiction of Durham region and in Toronto. The two teachers who were there were shocked. They had no idea that police officers have no right of collective bargaining because they are members of the RCMP.

This is not to disparage the existing staff relations representatives who have done a very good job in the past of trying to represent members of the RCMP. However, it is to recognize that individuals who represent the RCMP and who have a grievance against the RCMP may find themselves in a bit of a conflict of interest. If an officer has a grievance against management or a superior officer, for instance, how does the officer launch a formal grievance when it requires the approval of that very senior officer or senior management within the RCMP? There is the contradiction.

To my knowledge we do not have corporate unions in this country. We have not seen those since the 1920s. Yet, it exists within the RCMP. It is time not only to talk about modernization of the RCMP, but also to modernize our view of the RCMP as a modern, functional, adaptable police service that is capable of meeting the world's best challenges and protecting Canadians. However, they too must have confidence in the system that protects and provides them assurances that they will be treated no differently than any other police service in Canada.

This bill, while an important step, was a missed opportunity for the Conservative government to demonstrate that it is serious about standing up for rank and file RCMP officers. The government knows the issue. This is not new. We know that the Canadian Police Association is also looking to ensure that there are opportunities for recruitment. The police officers recruitment fund provides funding to recruit new officers. We have heard of this from the government, but the Canadian Police Association has indicated that this funding does not in any way, shape or form help retain officers.

The more fundamental question comes when someone decides to undertake recruitment. Young people may decide to become involved in policing, which is a very noble career, one which many individuals aspire to at some point in their lives. At one stage in my life I was thinking very much about it. On doing a comparison of police services in order to decide which police service to join, it is fair to say the prestige and honour of the RCMP is not necessarily met by an equality in benefits. It is not necessarily something that people would want to look to. There is no doubt that in difficult economic times we may see a larger number of potential recruits, but in ordinary times, it is very clear to me and to many others that those who chose the services in the past may have opted to go for local police services or other regional police services, given that the benefits and protection and certain rights and privileges would not be found in the RCMP, but would be found in other services.

The bill before us, which is at third reading and I have no doubt in my mind it will pass, should be seen as a great opportunity for the government and for parliamentarians to once and for all take very seriously the needs of the men and women who do us very proud.

I have no difficulty in saying there is an individual who has done very much for the cause of the RCMP, and I will not mention him by name, but an individual whom I know is devoted to his job does not necessarily take into consideration all of these challenges which members of the RCMP face. They may even set aside the fact that there is inequality in the RCMP.

We know there have been a lot of problems with respect to concerns about how the pension was managed within the RCMP, and what the legal fund is used for in terms of advocacy, which itself is a conflict of interest. All these aside, I know full well that members of the RCMP devote themselves to the job of protecting others. There is perhaps no greater job that I can think of where one is prepared to give his or her life in the service of others.

There is a police memorial not far from here, attended every year by parliamentarians. We all have names of people whom we know who have passed before us. They are individuals who, in the cause of giving their lives, have given so much for the freedom, democracy and liberties we enjoy.

I call upon the government to look at the bill not in isolation of the bigger problem, but to see it as a necessary first step to ensuring that RCMP members are treated equally, are treated with respect and are treated in a way in which we can modernize our thinking and our approach to a modern, effective police service.

I had the privilege of serving this Parliament and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the ministry in many missions abroad. It always struck me that the first thing the public around the world recognizes for Canada is the red serge and our officers. In most embassies around the world there is a desk officer from the RCMP.

We have to ensure that the symbol of our RCMP is also a symbol of fairness and equity. We have a higher degree of responsibility, aside from politics, to ensure that the grievances and the concerns that are being expressed day in and day out, that are being articulated now by our courts, are properly respected in the House.

I call on the justice minister and the public safety minister to pull back their willingness to consistently and continuously appeal the evolution of labour relations within the RCMP that have done the tremendous disservice of seeing our RCMP officers, men and women, left in a situation in which they are treated as second-class officers relative to other services across this country. I call upon the government to ensure that we never see a shameful act of repealing the wages or, because there is no protection for RCMP rank and file members, rolling back the wages to which they are entitled.

I appeal to the government again to ensure that it does not allow a situation where rank and file members see their wages rolled back while management and senior officers receive bonus pay and merit pay. I asked this question some time ago to the President of the Treasury Board. He sloughed it off. The reality is that not only does it create disparities between rank and file members and management, but it also creates disparities among services across this country. That cannot bode well for the higher objective of ensuring that we have an accountable public safety approach that includes, first and foremost, our RCMP.

I will be supporting the bill, but I caution, alert and continue to demand of the government that it stand up not just for the rights of Canadians to ensure fairness, but for what the RCMP so clearly deserves, which is a fair, modern labour relations agreement.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
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10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to comment on something my hon. colleague said. I have been very privileged over the last decade to participate in the national memorial for our fallen officers that takes place here every year on Parliament Hill, on the last Sunday of September. I believe that event should be a command performance for any elected member who is making legislation that our law enforcement members have to enforce on the streets.

It has been a real honour for me as a volunteer with the York Regional Police to participate in that. It is an extremely moving event, and nothing more moving than the year that the officers were killed in Mayerthorpe. The parliamentary grounds were a sea of red serge, being supported by the RCMP.

My question relates to the fact that our government has seen fit to put in place things that are going to help our RCMP officers. We are the only party that has a police caucus, and we put in place the dollars for Depot division. With all these things that we have done, why is it that former governments did not see this as fairness and justice and take the issue on themselves in previous governments?

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for her presence and her work with respect to the police memorial. The hon. member will also know that I became one of the first backbenchers to amend the Criminal Code on an issue that was number one for our police and for public safety in 1999-2000. The hon. member will know the work I have done to combat the scourge of child exploitation, with good friends, people who worked for the Kids' Internet Safety Alliance, including some of her constituents on the issue of victims' rights.

However, I would also caution the member that over time we have seen the evolution of a police service in this country that has come out of sync with the services that are provided to others. Whether it was a Liberal government or a Conservative government, the reality is that the courts have now suggested that there is a very serious problem. In fact, it struck down current legislation that bars RCMP officers from collective bargaining.

I think that is crucial and something that did not exist prior to 2006. That has certainly been the case for the past three months, and most importantly, the government appealed that decision. If the government wants to demonstrate its support of police, it can back off, call back the appeal and allow them to elect to organize collectively.

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been noted by a number of speakers that they attend the yearly memorial for fallen law enforcement officers here in Ottawa. It is something that should be attended. But after the memorial, and more poignantly, after the funerals, with federal law enforcement officials, with the RCMP, what do the families face? We provide them a death gratuity equal to two months' salary. We are addressing the superannuation of pensions, but they will never see the pensions. Their families will never see their loved ones again, and what do we provide? We provide two months' salary.

If the government truly wanted to bring fairness and equality, would it not have also used this as an opportunity to provide for educational benefits for spouses and children of fallen federal law enforcement officers, similar to those that exist in jurisdictions such as Ontario for the Ontario Provincial Police?

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre raises an excellent, very important and very glaring omission in terms of how we treat the RCMP and its officers.

We can talk about being there, have all the right sense and purpose of emotion, and support the families of those who have lost their lives in the defence of this country, but if we are not prepared to at least honour them with a decent and sustainable pension for the family in terms of a death benefit, that is yet another example of why I think the government really has to wake up and recognize that when it comes to the RCMP, the government is barely getting a passing grade. We recognize a number of problems, which I have raised in my speech. The hon. member has just introduced a bill that I think demonstrates yet another example of how we are failing the RCMP.

The government cannot continue with this rhetoric of being strong on law and order while at the same time denying our police officers, our men and women, the rights, opportunities and benefits they so clearly deserve.

It is a shame, frankly, for anybody to be talking about this when they are not prepared to match the concerns expressed by my good colleague from Etobicoke Centre.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning we have before us a bill that is very important for superannuates, but also for RCMP personnel.

This bill amends the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, validates certain calculations and amends other acts. It was introduced by the Minister of Public Safety on March 9, and modifies the administration of the Canada Pension Plan. The changes also provide the necessary powers to broaden prior service provisions and to implement pension transfer agreements.

Anyone who works or has worked for the federal public service or a Canadian police force which has an agreement with other police forces is familiar with prior service provisions. It is standard practice when people transfer from one police force to another for them to transfer their pension fund or to buy back service.

Prior service means buying back years of service for entitlement to a full pension. Bill C-18, which we are examining today, sets the cost of buying back service according to actuarial rules.

Members are responsible for taking steps to buy back prior service and can do so through their regular pension plan, a lump sum or monthly deductions.

Moreover, the bill extends the right to buy back prior service to other Canadian pension plans. This enables eligible pension plan participants to exercise an option regarding prior service under other Canadian pension plans.

We are used to that, but in organizations such as the RCMP, it was not possible. With the introduction of transfer agreements, the RCMP will be able to enter into official agreements with other Canadian pension plans in order to authorize pension transfers to the RCMP superannuation plan.

This has been done because the RCMP wants to modernize, of course, but also because it has a very tough time recruiting and retaining personnel. It is a question of being fair to the people who work for the RCMP.

This bill amends six other acts, which I will not name, as a result of the amendments to the superannuation act.

However, while we agree with this bill, concerns have been raised. RCMP divisional representatives in Quebec recognize, as we do, that Bill C-18 is a good bill and a step in the right direction, but they are concerned, in particular with regard to cadets. Cadets are new recruits hired by the RCMP.

Until 1992, the time spent in training by cadets, as recruits are known, was included in their pensionable service. This is no longer the case, though. Although cadets are paid a lump sum for their training, the six-month training period is no longer included in their pensionable service.

RCMP divisional representatives in Quebec also say that the definitions in Bill C-18 do not recognize these young recruits. Something was added to the bill, but it does not go far enough. The RCMP also agrees with that and considers this an anomaly. In provincial and municipal police forces, recruits' six-month training period is recognized and included in pensionable service.

Take, for example, provincial police officers—I talked about this problem earlier—who want to join the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Their six months of training are counted toward retirement. If they join the RCMP, their six months of training are recognized. However, those six months are not recognized for Royal Canadian Mounted Police cadets recruited since 1992. That is clearly unjust. The Bloc Québécois wants to reopen the discussion about this inconsistency in committee to make sure that young police officers get fair treatment and perhaps to amend other laws as well.

Another inconsistency that RCMP divisional representatives in Quebec are really worried about is the exclusion of civilian members from the RCMP pension plan. Why? Because these civilian members, who contribute to the pension plan under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, are at a disadvantage compared to the plan regular members belong to even though conditions of employment are similar. They have responsibilities and they deserve recognition too. They are subject to rules of transfer, just like regular members. They are subject to the same administrative rules about hours of work, as well as to the code of ethics. Most of them have responsibilities equivalent to 80% or more of the duties carried out by regular members. We should also bear in mind the fact that some civilian members are required to supervise regular members and to assign duties to them.

The Bloc believes that excluding them from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police pension plan is unfair. We want to take a closer look at conditions of work for civilian members of the RCMP and compare them to those of other RCMP members and other public service employees to find a suitable pension plan for them.

Another factor that causes a problem for the divisional members, and this is very important, is the long-term viability of the pension fund, as well as allocation of the cost of pension fund contributions among former members and new employees.

Bill C-18 of course allows for recognition and transfer of years of service and pension funds acquired in another federal or provincial police force, as I talked about earlier.

That recognition does not create any problems. However, when it also means recognition for senior officers in the RCMP, there is another problem. At present, about 160 senior officers in the RCMP are appointed by the commissioner or the governor in council. Employees in that category, those senior officers, are eligible for bonuses, the amount of which has been rising year after year. Those bonuses are also eligible for the pension purposes.

According to RCMP divisional representatives in Québec, the bonus may be as high as 20% of salary. They are therefore afraid that transferring the amount from the former pension fund will be insufficient to cover benefits paid out of the new one. They believe that the viability of the pension fund will be jeopardized and the balance would have to be restored, probably by increasing all employees’ contributions. In committee, people could make sure there was no problem in this regard.

When I began speaking, I said we were should help the RCMP, which is having trouble recruiting new cadets and retaining its experienced members. We know that the government committed itself a few years ago to reforming and strengthening the RCMP. In my opinion, Bill C-18 will help the RCMP to be regarded and perceived as a police force that, while elitist, still offers the same benefits as any police force, whether in Quebec or in the rest of Canada, and that is one of the best.

This is not the first time salary issues have been discussed. We are talking about the pension fund, but in the past we have discussed Royal Canadian Mounted Police wages. It will be recalled that the Conservative government recently decided to change the wage agreement it had signed with the RCMP. It made that decision completely unilaterally and the Bloc Québécois spoke out forcefully against the government’s attack on the rights of RCMP members. We believe that, by unilaterally imposing new wage conditions, the Conservatives have reneged on the commitment they made in a wage agreement signed in good faith by both parties.

The Bloc Québécois, therefore, has condemned this attack. It demands that the Conservatives reverse their decision and, in accordance with the agreement between the two parties, provide the full wage increase promised to RCMP members. The Bloc Québécois is very disturbed by these devious manoeuvres. It will always pay careful attention when the government makes changes affecting the RCMP.

Bill C-18 has already been examined in the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, on which I sit. Some shortcomings were pointed out, and we hope very much that progress can be made when it is studied in another committee.

The Bloc Québécois has also noted that RCMP officers want to form a union. Why not?

Why should they be the only police force in Canada that is not allowed to unionize? I believe they should have the same freedom of association as all the other police forces in Quebec and Canada.

The Bloc Québécois once tabled a bill to amend the Canada Labour Code and allow RCMP members to form a union.

The Bloc has always been concerned about the life that awaits members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, especially when they retire, and that is why we are studying this bill today. I think that after all their years of loyal service, they deserve a decent, fair and equitable retirement.

Many of these people have made sacrifices. They worked hard defending freedom and justice. We should also consider the fact that the RCMP is currently experiencing recruitment and retention problems. We want to help the people responsible for human resources at the RCMP as well. The people who work for the RCMP must be treated equitably and fairly.

We should also not forget that public money is at stake here. That is why I suggest sending this bill back to committee, not only so that its impact on legislation can be studied but also to attenuate or eliminate the irritants that are currently preventing 10,000 former RCMP employees from receiving the treatment they deserve.

We should try as well to remove the famous orphan clauses, as we call them in Quebec. I do not know whether people in the rest of Canada know about it. This would help young people by allowing them to accumulate six months in the pension plan so that they would be on the same footing as everyone else.

We are therefore in favour of the principle of Bill C-18 but think a lot of changes need to be made in a spirit of justice and fairness.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the speech of my hon. colleague was full of a great number of inaccuracies, and I will not try to correct all of them.

When my hon. colleague talks about recruits, I ask whether she really understands what is going on in the country, and perhaps even in her own province. Can she tell us what she has done to change things in her own province? We understand that the City of Montreal and Sûreté du Québec do not offer compensation to recruits because of the way the legislation is formulated in Quebec for police candidates. In the province of Quebec, candidates must have graduated from the Quebec police college prior to being hired by any police force in the province.

If she were to look at that legislation, she would find it very similar to the situation the RCMP cadets are in. They are not members of the force until they complete their training. In actual fact what we are talking about is exactly the same as it is in the province of Quebec.