04/27/2012 10:48 EDT | Updated 06/27/2012 05:12 EDT

RCMP to 'modernize' its health-care coverage

The RCMP is overhauling its employee health, disability and support services regime to meet the federal government’s budget squeeze.

A series of measures — including moving Mounties from internally funded health care to the provincial and territorial systems — is expected to save $25 million in administrative costs.

An internal memo to employees from Dan Dubeau, assistant commissioner, chief human resources officer, outlines the proposed multi-pronged plan to “modernize” the RCMP’s health services. A sick leave bank system would require regular and civilian members to accumulate sick leave rather draw from the current system of "entitlements."

Including Mounties under the Canada Health Act would require them to apply for provincial health-care coverage — a move Dubeau says will decrease administrative functions that don’t support core policing.

“Our senior executive committee set two overarching principles as the basis for the RCMP’s deficit reduction exercise: minimize impacts on direct policing operations as well as the impact on RCMP employees,” his memo reads.

The proposals require legislative changes.

Julie Carmichael, director of communications for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, said the government is committed to giving “the best” to RCMP officers and that changes won't decrease services.

“We are upgrading their status so that they can receive the same high standard of health care as any other Canadian,” she said. “This will save the federal government $25 million per year in needless administrative costs, and will not impact the budgets of the provinces."

Under the proposed change, members would be covered directly as insured residents instead of through a contracting arrangement for non-residents.

But an advocacy group insists the changes will lead to inconsistent care and benefits for Mounties across the country — and amount to the federal government shirking its responsibilities.

“The proposed changes will mean that care of our national police force will no longer be provided by our national government,” Jeff Rose-Martland, president of Our Duty, told CBC’s Power & Politics.

"Instead, provinces and private corporations would be responsible for them. That is completely contrary to the principles of national service. Parliament has a duty of care to the RCMP. The federal government wants to use the mounted police but not take care of them — that is dereliction of duty.”

Changes to the leave system could force members to return to work when they’re not fit for duty, Rose-Martland said.