A wave of retirements, low pay and the need to expand its pool of potential new officers are among the reasons the RCMP is making significant changes to its recruitment process.

Starting this month, the RCMP is dropping its requirement that applicants must be Canadian citizens. It will now accept permanent residents. Post-secondary graduates will no longer have to write an entrance exam that measures aptitude for police work and the force will no longer require a physical abilities evaluation before people submit an application. 

Speaking to Senators at national security committee, RCMP Deputy Commissioner of Human Resources Dan Dubeau said the changes should get more people into the training academy quicker. Dubeau says the RCMP is planning for 34 troops comprised of 32 cadets each to go through the academy this year. 

"Right now. I can be honest, 34 will not meet the gap," Dubeau said, adding that the RCMP is expecting up to 800 officers to retire this year, "with the growth in the West, that will not meet our gaps. So that's why we changed the process."

The new recruitment process would also allow new RCMP graduates from B.C. and the Prairies to remain in their home provinces for their first posting, which is where there is the greatest need for more officers. 

Beyond streamlining the application process, Dubeau said allowing university and college graduates to skip the entrance exam should help the Mounties raise the overall level of education in the force. 

Pay difference 'not lost on our members'

That said, many frontline Mounties won't hesitate to say better pay would help recruit more officers. In recent years the RCMP has fallen far behind its goal of paying constables a salary on par with an average of the eight largest police forces. Even when one factors in pension, leave and benefits, Dubeau told Senators that RCMP constables are paid 11% less than their colleagues in the three highest-paid police services. 

"That is very concerning for us so we have been talking to our colleagues at Treasury Board about trying to resolve that issue and putting forward some proposals, which I can't share because it's under cabinet confidence," Dubeau said. 

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said Monday it's something members raise with him constantly.

"We work in a very integrated environment in Canada. In other words many of our officers are side-to-side, shoulder-to-shoulder with other police officers from many other police forces and every two weeks they get a chance to compare notes and share pay stubs and so it's not lost on our members that there is a growing difference," said Paulson.

People who complete the cadet training program and are hired as an RCMP constable have a starting salary of roughly $50,000, the RCMP says.