Very well. I was going to ask him a question, but I think I can still do so in my speech. I am certain you will agree with me, Mr. Speaker, as usual.
How are RCMP officers going to react to the fact that they cannot hope to enter into collective bargaining, or have a safety code, in short to do what all other workers are allowed to do today, namely, get together and have their voices heard.
I am afraid that this bill will deprive RCMP officers of any hope to find a balance between their status and the status of all other Canadian workers, who have the right to join forces, and sometimes are compelled to by the social context. From now on, RCMP officers-that is the police officers of the RCMP-will not be allowed to engage in collective bargaining, or to form unions or brotherhoods. All these things that give hope to other workers are henceforth taken away from them.
What is their attitude going to be with regards to their work? What is going to motivate them to proudly discharge their duties if, year after year, their pay scale is going to lag behind those of other police forces, construction workers or workers in any other fields?
Are RCMP officers going to find themselves in the same situation as some members of the armed forces? According to a news item the minister of defence is careful not to comment, military personnel from Quebec who had been transferred to Vancouver had to go to the British Columbia welfare office to cover the shortfall between their military pay and what they need to live on in Vancouver.
I know you agree with me, Mr. Speaker, as always. Except that, do we wish the same thing for RCMP officers? Is this yet another roundabout means, a trick this government has found to make provincial governments pay for a part of its police officers' salary? There is some machiavellism in that. I refuse to recognize there is some good faith in a bill containing four clauses. In fact, it contains only one, because the first three say this is a piece of legislation, which we all figured out here, but there is one that is fundamental, and it is clause 4. It takes away all rights from our police officers' elite.
I think the government is also relying greatly on the fact that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has been in existence since 1873, I believe, and the member for Bellechasse, who is knowledgeable, may correct me if I am wrong. It has been turned into a religion in some families. First of all they want a priest in the family, then a RCMP officer. And the government has used that ever since. It used the fact it was a vocation for many who joined the RCMP to underpay them, to impose working conditions that would not have been acceptable anywhere else, but it did so in the case of the RCMP because it was a religion.
Religion means privation, of course. Privation means unfulfilled needs, needs that are not compensated for. It can end up being dangerous. There have been unfortunate occurrences like the recent one involving a career officer in the RCMP who turned his service weapon against himself because he was suspected of some wrongdoing, maybe rightly so, I do not know, because I have not investigated the matter. He was allegedly involved in something improper, according to the media-which I do not always trust-and he killed himself. If this man had been adequately paid, if his dignity had been recognized in his work and duties, if he had had the same opportunities as his fellow officers, if he had been able to afford going to the restaurant once in a while, with his wife and kids, maybe he would not have committed suicide. But these people are asked to behave as if their occupation was a vocation, like priesthood. "You are paid less". And, in polite terms, they are told: "Shut up. Do not demand anything".
Things have to get really awful before an RCMP officer complains about anything. I can see that when I sit on the scrutiny of regulations committee. Retired RCMP officers have been cheated for 15 years in the calculation of their pension benefits. But during that whole period, not a single one of them has launched proceedings to argue for his rights before the trial and appeal divisions of the Federal Court of Canada. An RCMP guy never demands anything. Does a priest ask God anything for himself? Never. It is just the same with the RCMP.
Had this problem happened in the public service, it would have been quickly brought before the Supreme Court of Canada, and justice would have been done, but the RCMP is like a religion or like priesthood. You never ask for anything, and if you do, you do so humbly and never demand anything. If your request is not granted, well-
I have seen a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police sell his house at something like $15,000 below market value for fear of making a profit he could be criticized for by his superiors. This is as true as the fact that you are in your seat, Mr. Speaker. I know that you are listening, as always, and I thank you for that.
I would imagine that, coming from so far away, the hon. member for Bourassa has known a police force or two. He must have encountered police officers who not as patient and amicable as our RCMP officers. He has seen it all, the whole range of police forces. He can tell you himself-I am not putting words in his mouth-that we are well served by the RCMP. We have come to rely on the members of the RCMP, who have become, at least in our minds,
some kind of missionaries. They are paid less than they should be for the work they do. There are members of police forces much less important and definitely not as endearing as the RCMP who are paid better. Personally, I suspect that we pay more for RCMP horses than RCMP officers. This flies in the face of reason. Of course, they do have very fine horses.
All this to say that we must do our police officers justice and throwing bludgeon legislation like this at them is certainly not the way to go about it. How nice: Tourists come here to see the changing of the guard, with the big fur hats and all. It looks good, but the fact is that the person under the hat is not paid or underpaid. This person is not entitled to the same pay as anyone else. I do not know many people who would agree to stand there under a hot sun with a fur hat.
I would therefore ask the sponsors of this bill to reconsider and try to understand where others are coming from, to understand the tragedy for these people of having no bilingual bonus and no collective bargaining. In fact, all they are allowed to do is to ride their horses and shut up. This is really not the sort of life one would expect.