Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today in support of Bill C-18.
As hon. members may know, I spent 30 years as a member of the police department of Woodstock, Ontario. I entered as a constable and retired from the force as chief of police. The well-being of Canada's police officers is a subject near and dear to my own heart.
What we have before us is a matter of unfinished business.
This bill proposes certain technical amendments to the RCMP Superannuation Act which would improve pension portability; in other words, transferring the value of benefits earned under a former plan to a new one.
The act was first amended in 1999, with the same intent. However, when work began on drafting the enabling regulations, it was learned the legislative changes did not go far enough. This bill would close those gaps. Once implemented through regulation, these amendments would modernize the RCMP Superannuation Act and bring it in line with the federal public service pension plan and other plans.
Specifically, Bill C-18 would do three things.
First, it would support Parliament's 1999 intention to expand existing provisions for election of prior service. Currently, members of the RCMP pension plan can transfer credits for prior service with a police force that was absorbed by the RCMP, with the Canadian Forces, with the Public Service of Canada, with the Senate, or with the House of Commons. Under new provisions, eligible members could elect to purchase credits from other Canadian pension plans; a municipal or provincial police force, for instance.
Second, is the matter of pension transfer arrangements that the amended superannuation act would support. As we know, a pension transfer agreement is typically a formal arrangement between two employers. It would allow a plan member to increase pensionable service by directly transferring the actuarial value of benefits earned under a previous plan to a new one.
Last, the bill contains other related amendments that would clarify and improve some administrative and eligibility aspects of the act. For example, it would validate certain historical calculations related to part-time employment and the cost of elections for prior service with a police force that was taken over by the RCMP. It would also better protect pension eligibility for those transferring benefits from the public service, the Canadian Forces, or for retired senators and members of Parliament who continue their career with the RCMP.
Greater fairness and flexibility in RCMP superannuation are important considerations. They are important benefits that this bill would deliver.
Like pretty much all employers in the country, the RCMP faces an aging workforce and stiff competition from other employers seeking to attract the best and brightest to their ranks. Somewhere around 700 members are retiring each year from the RCMP.
To replace retiring members and meet operational requirements in the future, the RCMP must attract and train a record number of recruits for the next few years. This is another area where improved pension portability may be important, especially when it comes to the recruitment of lateral troops. These are officers with at least two years' service, typically with a municipal or provincial force, who have decided to continue their careers with the RCMP. As such, their training is much shorter than that of regular cadets, at just five weeks.
The idea is to leverage the experience of lateral entrants to quickly develop fully trained police officers who are ready to take up their duties upon arrival in detachment. Once they are there, they require far less supervision by experienced officers, known as field coaches, than brand new constables. That frees up more resources for policing our communities.
Lateral entrants represent just a fraction of the cadets who graduate from the RCMP's training facility each year, roughly 3% or 4%, so we are not talking large numbers. However, at a time of attrition and an increasingly complex and challenging security environment, the RCMP needs all the personnel it can get. Pension portability can help attract experienced officers through the door.
In fact, I hold in my hand excerpts from the 2005 report of the Auditor General of Canada. In it, the Auditor General notes that the cost of training a regular cadet is about $30,000, compared to $2,000 for a lateral entry. Of the lateral entry program, the report states: “--this program is not attractive to potential employees as they cannot transfer their pension contributions to the RCMP pension plan”. All of that would change under the proposed amendments before the House today.
The RCMP Depot is currently capable of training up to 90 lateral entrants a year divided into three troops of 30, but up to now a typical lateral troop contains only about 16 entrants. We believe pension portability has a lot to do with that as, again, it is available right now only to former military police who are covered by the federal Canadian Forces Superannuation Act.
I would also like to note that pension portability as it pertains to transfer agreements is a two-way street. RCMP members may occasionally seek employment with other agencies and organizations, for example, when a family relocates to a new community. If a transfer agreement is in place between the two organizations, then members can take their prior service with them as credit toward pension benefits.
Mobility and flexibility within Canada's security community is a good thing. It benefits the safety of all Canadians and today's generation of employees want options, opportunities and recognition for their good work. This kind of flexibility is already reflected in the pension plans of other federal workers, so I think it only fair that the RCMP members enjoy the same treatment.
It is important to take every reasonable opportunity to support recruitment to our national police force and the well-being and morale of its members. The House saw fit once already in the past to make the legislative adjustments it believed would facilitate greater pension portability to RCMP superannuation, but we have since learned those changes fell short of what was required to put enabling regulations in place to make it all happen.
Let us do it now and not a moment too soon. I call on all hon. members to support the RCMP by supporting Bill C-18.