Gazette calls SQ “simply an irritant to taxpayers”

I couldn’t have said it better myself

The GazettePublished:
Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Surete du Quebec is costing Quebec taxpayers a lot of money. It’s bad enough to lose $40 million in revenue because SQ officers are handing out fewer traffic tickets as a pressure tactic to protest slow contract negotiations.

But it turns out, a recent press report says, that hundreds of SQ officers have been receiving generous perks, many of them tax-exempt.

At least 350 non-unionized lieutenants, captains, inspectors and inspectors-in-chief use unmarked police cars as their personal vehicles. The cost of the vehicles, including gas and insurance, is paid by the force. The rationale for this lavish subsidy is that these officers are on call 24/7.

That’s not all: rank-and-file SQ members pay no unemployment insurance premiums, an annual saving of about $800. When assigned to assist investigations in plainclothes, they receive a $6-a-day allowance. Their lunch hour is paid, but if called for duty on their lunch hours, they are paid extra.

There’s no overall figure as to how much all this is costing Quebecers. But we’re not talking about the price of a sandwich and a cup of coffee.

Police sources complain that the 5,000 unionized SQ members are “disillusioned” by lagging contract talks. And they have a point. The last contract lapsed more than four years ago, and the two sides remain as far apart as ever; Quebec is offering the same wage hikes as for the rest of public-sector employees, 2 per cent a year, or 8 per cent in total since 2002. The SQ is demanding nearly twice that much, 15 per cent over four years.

But the issue of these perks is not on the table, and it should be. After all, these perks are income.

They are, in fairness, simply an irritant for taxpayers, not in the same league as the long catalogue of serious abuses that the Poitras commission chronicled in its blistering 1999 report.
But it would be useful – and easily done – for instance, to keep a log of just how much use of these cars falls within police duty, and how much for personal use. And Quebec should count all perks as income – just as it does for every other citizen.

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