Canada’s cops are tops in salaries and pay hikes

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Across Canada, governments are cutting budgets and warning public employees not to expect wage increases.

But one sector's been largely exempt from that kind of pressure - the police.

A Globe and Mail editorial asks why Canadian cops should get regular wage hikes at a time of falling crime rates and tightening purse strings.

"Last year, police protection cost Canada's cash-strapped cities $12.6-billion — the 14th consecutive year of spending growth, even after adjusting for inflation," the Globe noted.

"Unlike other public-sector employees, many municipal police forces continue to receive annual raises that outpace inflation. From 2009 to 2011, expenditures on police salaries and benefits increased by five per cent across the country, while other police operating expenditures fell four per cent, Statistics Canada reports."

StatsCan's most recent report on police resources documents the decade-long growth in expenditures.

First-class police officers in big Canadian cities earn between $80,000 and $90,000 annually, not including benefits and overtime, the Globe editorial observed.

"That makes them among the most generously compensated police in the world," the Globe said.

The web site PayScale.com notes RCMP officers, who police much of Canada outside of big cities, earn between $43,500 and $88,000, and the Ontario Provincial Police pull down $52,000 to $85,427 a year.

Edmonton cops and sheriffs can earn up to $99,000, the best in Canada, while those in Montreal top out at just over $86,000, eighth overall.

Toronto police are ninth at about $87,400, but the Globe noted they've just negotiated a four-year contract providing an 11.5 per cent pay increase, along with other benefits.

The London Free Press noted in 2010 that officers in the Ontario city that was the scene of a destructive St. Patrick's Day riot last weekend receive a base salary topping out at $80,000. That's more than comparable American cities, where crime rates are far higher, the paper noted.

There's little public discussion about these deals, the Globe argues, because city politicians fear being labelled "anti-police." When Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi broached decreasing the police budget 1.5 per cent, his councillors over-rode him and boosted the budget by $18.3 million.

A Vancouver Sun investigation of public-sector salaries noted top B.C. cops also were well compensated. Vancouver's Chief Jim Chu earned $303,602 in 2009, outpaced by Derek Egan of the Victoria suburb of Saanich, who received $342,000.

Police do a difficult, stressful job, the editorial concedes, but that should not mean departments should be exempt from the kinds of reforms demanded of other public services.

"The political deference shown to police means no pressure for innovation, unlike in health care and education," the Globe said. "It should not be unpatriotic to better manage compensation costs in policing."