Quarters and Rations (Q&R)

Quarters and Rations (Q&R)

Quarters and Rations (Q&R), seen on many Canadian government employee pay cheques as Q – R IN KIND is also know as Rations and Quarters (R&Q) in the Canadian military.

It is a topic over which I fought against the Coast Guard bureaucracy my whole working life. I wanted it defined for the lighthouse keeper! 

It is paid – why can the keepers not have the benefits? When I was working I had the personnel office in Prince Rupert in a turmoil. I even filed a grievance with the Union, and all the bigwigs in Vancouver could not find out what our benefits were and said let it drop. 

When I worked for the government in the north of Canada, and today on many postings where government personnel – police, military, weather observers, ships crews, radio operators, airport personnel, etc.  are sent into isolation to do work for the government, they are given Q&R benefits. (Is anybody missing from this list? Please contact me and let me know.)

What are Quarters and Rations benefits? How is it calculated?

The calculation is a bit difficult to explain. Take a look at the pay stub above. You will see that Q&R is added on to the pay (in this case $7.67, now $16.67 in 2011 for lighthouse keepers), then income tax is calculated on the total of the pay check and then the Q&R is deleted from the remaining pay. Q&R in Kind is not given to you or taken away from you. Q&R is what is generated by the process.

What has happened is that the person has paid for Quarters and Rations, but in this case, only a minimal amount – the tax on the additional $7.67. OK, so what? Well, if one were receiving $350.00 Q&R, then this would increase your yearly income tax – might even put you in another tax bracket, where you would be taxed more, then it is deducted so you are back to square one, but the amount of Q&R you have paid is more.

Something you might not see right away is the fact that the more you earn, the more you pay. So, if you were in an isolated posting and you and your boss both had an identical house, he would pay more on his Q&R as he earns more.

So, you do not get an increase, only a method that allows the government to calculate, based on your pay level, a sum for you to pay for RENT – yes, it is rental in a way – a sum you pay each month to stay in government housing.

Anyways, for your information, when I worked for the Department of Transport (DOT) under the Atmospheric Environment Service (AES), I was posted to Norman Wells. My cheque stub showed that they were deducting Q&R in Kind for Room and Board while I was posted and worked in Norman Wells.

I was given a bedroom in a big duplex along with a few other single guys, each in a separate room. We had the run of the house with washing facilites, etc. We had a cook house for meals supplied by a government cook. If I had been married, I would have received a house. I was a renter. 1

Now, here is the problem with the Q&R for lighthouses. They pay the nominal Q&R (rent) but Coast Guard (CG) states they are not renting the houses, and so have no renters rights. This gives CG the means to move people into the houses when the lightkeeper is on holidays, using their furniture, bedding, towels, and dishes and appliances with no recompense to the lightkeeper.

It also means that CG can burden the lightkeeper with work crews which must be fed and boarded and cleaned up after.

What happened to tenant’s rights? See this website for BC Tenant Rights, especially #7 – Privacy and Quiet Enjoyment.


  I found a copy of a couple of letters I wrote to the Coast Guard back in 1998 and 1999 asking them to explain the Q&R in Kind for Lighthouse Keepers. Wish I had the rest, but these show my frustration.  



1 Renter – one that pays rent for the use of another’s property; a tenant.



As this post makes reference to cheques, here is information on all of the boxes on your Canadian Government cheque. It is taken from this Treasury Board website

I have also posted this above under the header photo, under KEEPERS > Paycheck so it is easy to find later.

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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.

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