Skip to main content

The National Police Federation elected Brian Sauvé, seen here, to its top position earlier this month.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The RCMP has chosen union leaders from its ranks for the first time, a move that sets the stage for labour negotiations that could increase policing costs in communities across Canada.

Elected to the new union’s top position earlier this month, president-elect Brian Sauvé said it’s premature to talk about the National Police Federation’s (NPF) collective-bargaining strategy with the federal government.

But if those negotiations should fail, the sergeant from Surrey said, “we are not afraid to go to binding arbitration.”

Story continues below advertisement

“The membership told us pay is No. 1, human-resource levels are No. 2, and then benefits,” Sauvé said in a telephone interview with The Globe and Mail. “So they’re pretty consistent and we’ll try to do that.”

A century ago, the federal government passed laws blocking Mounties from unionizing. That lasted until 2015, when the Supreme Court found the practice unconstitutional.

“The RCMP is the only police force in Canada without a collective agreement to regulate the working conditions of its officers,” the top court said at the time, paving the way for a union.

The NPF was ratified in a vote earlier this year by members and represents the vast majority of the Mounties’ 19,000-officer work force.

When it formally launches operations later this winter, it will be three times as large as any other police union in the country.

Jurisdictions that use the RCMP "will soon start to see, basically, an unfiltered view about what the members policing their communities feel about their own organization,” Mr. Sauvé said.

The NPF says that the RCMP rank and file’s wages rank 63rd out of 80 Canadian police forces. The federal government has countered that the average Mountie salary is “in line” with those at other forces.

Story continues below advertisement

Any pay increase will have implications for all levels of government.

While the RCMP is a federally managed force, about two-thirds of all Mounties are leased out as local officers to provinces, cities and towns.

This “contract policing” model started a century ago, with Ottawa spreading Mounties around Canada through a standing offer to pay more than half of every officer’s wages. That arrangement induced local governments to shutter pre-existing police forces, especially in Eastern and Western Canada.

Federal subsidies have diminished over time and the contract-policing model is now under increasing scrutiny.

Surrey, the biggest city policed by the Mounties, is moving to replace its RCMP detachment with an independent local force. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced this month that a panel will look at how to end his province’s contract with the RCMP.

“We will definitely be engaged along the way and providing input to those decision-makers,” Mr. Sauvé said.

Story continues below advertisement

But he said the top priority for the union’s new representatives is to meet in January to figure out the basics: how to set and collect dues; how to get union executives time away from their jobs; and how to get government documents disclosed in preparation for bargaining.

Negotiating a new contract with the federal government’s Treasury Board Secretariat could start as early as this spring, he said.

"It could all be done in a month if the employer would agree to everything we ask for,” Mr. Sauvé said. “But I doubt that is going to happen. I’d like to say maybe a year, but I don’t know.”

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies