RCMP billing dispute roils Parliament's police service

Canada's Parliament Hill police service is barely three years old - and continues to be a troubled workplace. CBC News has obtained internal documents describing a $1.18 million billing dispute between the RCMP and the Parliamentary Protective Service that has lingered for more than a year.

Union spokesman cites 'toxic' workplace at Parliamentary Protective Service, blames RCMP's top-down culture

CBC News has learned that the Mounties billed the Parliamentary Protective Service almost $2 million for extra services during the 2017 Canada Day weekend on Parliament Hill, which remains unpaid. (Submitted photo)

A hefty unpaid bill from the RCMP is highlighting once again the dysfunction inside a troubled security force created in 2015 to protect Parliament Hill and its politicians from armed attackers.

The Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS) is an uneasy amalgamation of an RCMP unit and the two security forces formerly responsible for separately protecting the House of Commons and the Senate.

The three groups were combined following amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act, effective June 23, 2015. The changes were prompted by a gunman's assault in 2014 that left a soldier dead, a guard wounded and the attacker fatally shot inside the Centre Block on Parliament Hill.

New RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki approved a deal in May with the Parliamentary Protective Service that sets an upper limit of $26 million the RCMP can bill for security services in a year. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Labour troubles, jurisdictional squabbles and harassment allegations dogged the new service over its first three years. And CBC News has learned there's even an unresolved dispute over money.

The RCMP have been demanding reimbursement from the Parliamentary Protective Service for $1.9 million that they spent on overtime, meals, travel and other expenses from June 30 to July 2, 2017, in and around Parliament Hill.

That was the weekend of Canada's 150th birthday party, when rain and long security lineups soured the festivities, leaving many visitors grumbling and frustrated.

The sum being sought by the RCMP amounts to almost 10 per cent of the $20,883,474 the Mounties received in 2017-2018 for their participation in the PPS, including their share of personnel, operating and maintenance costs.

At the same time, the RCMP acknowledge they previously overbilled the PPS for retroactive salary payments, to the amount of $721,945. That amount was spent on salaries for RCMP officers working for the PPS — but it was supposed to be absorbed by the RCMP alone, rather than charged back.

Billing dispute 

"Given the overbilling was not reversed, the outstanding amount for the 2017 Canada Day Festivities is $1.18 million," RCMP spokesperson Stephanie Dumoulin said.

CBC News obtained information about the money dispute through internal briefing notes released under the Access to Information Act. The documents provide only the RCMP's side of the dispute because the PPS itself is not covered by the access act — but they make it clear that PPS has balked at the Mounties' Canada Day bill.

Each year, the RCMP and the PPS are supposed to sign a memorandum of understanding setting out financial matters, among other things.

But the two sides failed to come to an agreement for 2017-2018 until May 15 of this year — long after the end of the fiscal year — when new RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki finally approved a new two-year deal that will end in March 2019.

It is a toxic place.- Public Service Alliance of Canada union spokesman Greg McGillis on the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS)

The latest deal now sets a maximum amount that the PPS can reimburse to the RCMP — $26 million a year — but the agreement still has not resolved the matter of the unpaid (and contested) $1.18 million.

Dumoulin said RCMP reimbursement costs related to this year's Canada Day festivities are also unresolved.

"Discussions between the RCMP and PPS relative to the resolution of issues including costs remain ongoing," she said in an email, without providing details.

CBC News also has obtained a copy of a June 28 letter from six senators to Senate Speaker George Furey calling for a salary increase for members of the PPS that work for the Upper Chamber.

The letter — signed by four Conservatives (Leo Housakos, Yonah Martin, Don Plett and Judith Seidman), a Liberal (Mobina Jaffer) and non-affiliated David Adams Richards — notes that PPS officers in the House of Commons recently received a raise, as did other employees of the Senate. But workforce jurisdictional squabbles have denied the same 1.25 per cent increase to the Senate's own security officers.

'One of the worst workplaces'

The letter also cited "several concerns that we have about the inclusion of the RCMP within the structure of an amalgamated Senate and House of Commons security service."

The senators repeated a common criticism of the PPS's structure — that the director of the PPS should not be a member of the RCMP but rather someone who reports directly to the Speakers of both chambers, and is therefore independent of government.

The PPS also has come under fire from the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents the 110 to 120 detection specialists in the service who screen people and vehicles.

Some members of the Parliamentary Protective Service donned a new patch this year to express frustration with continuing labour issues. (Supplied)

"The RCMP sort of took over," said union spokesman Greg McGillis. "There was a culture change at the top and it was very much a top-down view of the world.

"I don't think the intent was to create the chaos they've created … It is a toxic place."

McGillis said that the creation of the PPS has resulted in a highly stressed workplace for detection specialists, with an "extremely high level of conflict, a lot of anger …

"One of the worst workplaces we have and it's hard to believe it's on Parliament Hill."

Last month, the PPS issued a tender for professional services to help it manage harassment complaints in the workplace.

The service has a budget of $83.5 million for 2018-2019, up $15 million from the previous year.

Follow @DeanBeeby on Twitter

About the Author

Dean Beeby

Senior reporter, Parliamentary Bureau

Dean Beeby is a CBC journalist, author and specialist in freedom-of-information laws. Follow him on Twitter: @DeanBeeby

With files from Elizabeth Thompson and Julie Van Dusen, CBC Ottawa

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