Marni Soupcoff (Editorial, National Post) – The Harper government’s omnibus budget bill is threatening to deny members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police access to modern medicine, leaving them to suffer alone, untreated when injured or ill. Or so you’d think from the fuss being made about proposed changes to RCMP health care. Here’s what Staff-Sergeant Abe Townsend, national executive for the Mounties’ Staff Relations Representative Program, told the Globe and Mail in an interview: “We travel in harm’s way to serve the public interest…. The quid pro quo is that if circumstances are unfortunate and we become sick or injured, we will not be left to whither [sic] on our own and the Canadian public has our back. It’s a fair exchange of trust.”
The thing is, no Mountie is going to wither by virtue of the Tories’ plan — at least no more so than any other Canadian. The idea is simply that members of the RCMP would rejoin the normal health care system in their provinces of residence, rather than being enrolled in a unique federal health-care system of their own, as they are now. Millions of dollars would be saved by getting rid of the current bureaucratic process in which Mounties essentially receive the same care as everyone else (they show up at the same hospitals and see the same doctors), but are billed as non-residents covered by federal contract, creating enormous administrative costs.
Deeming the change a “dereliction of duty” by the feds, as Jeff Rose-Martland, the president of an advocacy group called Our Duty, did on the CBC, is ridiculous. “The federal government wants to use the mounted police but not take care of them,” he said. But how is giving Mounties the same universal health coverage as every single other Canadian enjoys a failure to take care of them? Is the rule that citizens who do more for the country should be entitled to better health care than everyone else? Should Mounties and, say, Canadian Forces members be bumped up to the top of the queue any time they need a surgical procedure? What about a kidney or a lung?
If the current provincial healthcare systems aren’t good enough for federal police (which is a strange case to make anyway given that the Mounties have essentially been seeing the same providers, just under a more convoluted billing structure that doubles or triples the cost), then they’re not good enough for the rest of us either.
While no one likes change, the RCMP would be wise to quit whining about proposed cost-saving measures that would do little but demand Mounties endure the regular, everyday hassles of life. It’s not hard to see why they don’t want to start having to bank sick days (they currently operate under an uncapped sick leave system). However, ordinary Canadians are making far greater sacrifices on the altar of cost savings every day — and most of them are involved in far fewer scandals and screw-ups than the RCMP has been of late.
Want to talk about a fair exchange of trust? In short — we’ll pay the Mounties well, provide them generous benefits and entrust them with our liberty. And in exchange, they will protect us and try to refrain from: sex and drinking escapades; turning incorrect intelligence over to foreign authorities that will result in our torture; sexual harassment; misuse of internal pension money; excessive Tasering and other disgraceful conduct.
Wouldn’t that be a reasonable trade? Even without unlimited sick leave and a health-care system for the Mounties to call their own?