BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Equity for officers

Bob Spiers is calling for auxiliary officers to have equity with volunteer firemen

Bob Spiers has a soft spot for the men and women pounding the pavement in our communities.

It may be partly because his son is an RCMP officer, but it’s mostly because the Vernon councillor appreciates their actions and the risks they take on our behalf.

And Spiers doesn’t differentiate between full-time career officers and auxiliary police who volunteer their time outside of other jobs — an officer is an officer.

That’s why he has launched a petition urging the federal government to provide a tax credit to auxiliary police officers.

“They are first responders and they put in a lot of time,” he said.

Spiers is calling for auxiliary officers to have equity with volunteer firemen who received a tax credit in 2011 and search and rescue volunteers who got a credit in 2014.

If approved, the credit could mean $3,000 per officer, but Spiers insists the amount is irrelevant compared to the message it sends.

“I want to let them know that they’re appreciated,” he said.

However, the bottom line can’t be ignored.

Auxiliary officers allow the RCMP and municipalities to stretch their resources without hiking taxes. And the costs are significant — about $165,000, including wages, vehicles, equipment and other support for each career officer.

Auxiliary officers assist with community events, crime prevention initiatives, traffic control, ground patrols and general duties, and that means they occasionally place their own lives on the line.

That was the tragic case in 2004 when Glen Evely, an auxiliary constable, was riding in a police car in downtown Vernon that was struck by a stolen vehicle. He died at the scene, leaving behind his wife and two young children.

Or in early 2015, an auxiliary officer sustained injuries after being shot on duty near Edmonton.

Unlike their career counterparts, auxiliary officers don’t have weapons to defend themselves.

Spiers lobbied candidates in the last federal election to recognize auxiliary officers with a tax credit, and now he is taking advantage of a government initiative that allows Canadians to develop petitions that could lead to policy change if there is sufficient support.

“I hoped to get it out sooner so it (credit) could be part of the federal budget in March. I’m not sure if it will be presented to the House of Commons by then,” said Spiers, adding that he has the endorsement of Mel Arnold, the local MP.

Also rallying support is Mayor Akbal Mund.

“This is a no-brainer, I encourage everyone I know to give auxiliary RCMP officers the same tax breaks,” Mund wrote on his personal Facebook page.

Petition signatures are being collected until May 7 at https://petitions.parl.gc.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-29 or go to the link at vernon.ca.

There’s a common perception that politicians only have their own interests at heart. But here’s a case where a Vernon city councillor sees an inequity and is trying to initiate change for the betterment of Canadians who give of themselves.

I would urge you to join Spiers’ campaign and sign the petition.