Hike funding

Defense lawyers blame rise in legal aid funding for province

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Defense attorneys have issued a harsh verdict on the province’s funding hike for legal aid providers and client eligibility.

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While the salary increase for legal aid lawyers and those accessing the service is an improvement, it is not enough and lags behind other provinces, four lawyer groups in a joint press release.

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“While the 8.225% increase announced by the Government of Alberta (Wednesday) marks minimal progress, inflation adjustments alone would necessitate an increase of almost 20%,” said associations of the whole province.

“For low-income Albertans in need of legal aid, an 8.225% increase barely restores financial eligibility thresholds to where they were in 2010 (when they were unceremoniously reduced by 30%).

The UCP government says the funding increases are a temporary measure for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023, until a permanent decision is made, and were made possible by a recent injection of federal funds.

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The change raised the pay of legal aid lawyers from $92.40 to $100 an hour starting Thursday, while their BC counterparts earn from $113.39 to $124.73 of the hour depending on experience, they said.

An Ontario legal aid lawyer is paid between $109.14 and $136.43, and “and they’re about to take similar action,” said Ian Savage, president of Criminal Defense Lawyers. ‘ Association.

“The overwhelming reaction from lawyers all over (Alberta) is that it’s a slap in the face.”

At the same time, top-up funding means a family of four with a household income above $41,270.52 would have to pay for legal services, while achieving a basic standard of living in Edmonton and Calgary. would require an income of more than $80,000. , defense attorneys said.

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Defense lawyers launched industrial action in August to pressure the government to increase legal aid funding, and early last week refused to take on new clients.

Lawyers said there could be a vote next week to determine whether the government’s offer is enough to end this withdrawal of services, but Savage said he doubts he will succeed given his apparent rejection by his colleagues.

“Can you hire anyone with any skill level to do anything for $100 an hour these days? People who have six to eight years of college education and 10 or 20 years of experience?” he said, adding that lawyers ask for at least a 40% top-up.

He said the lawyers’ action – which is backed by considerable solidarity among around 400 members – is effectively hampering the legal aid system.

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The province said the increased funding puts Alberta sixth among provinces in hourly rates for registered lawyers.

It is accelerating action to increase resources available to the legal aid system, a process currently under consideration, Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said.

“With the modernization project on track to complete this month and increased funding available through the federal government, there is now an opportunity to increase legal aid funding sooner than expected,” said Shandro said in a statement Wednesday.

“This increase in funding during the year is a first step, and we look forward to the results of the modernization project and the results of the comprehensive review.”

In recent weeks, Shandro has said increasing funding now would jeopardize an ongoing legal aid funding review that is due to be completed next year.

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Content of the article

  1. Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.

    Alberta announces pay raise for legal aid lawyers, but strike may continue

  2. The Calgary Courts Center was photographed on Thursday April 28, 2022.

    Defense attorneys say they will deny new legal aid cases starting Monday in compensation dispute with province

  3. Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro answers questions during a news conference, in Calgary, September 3, 2021. Shandro says the province will not undermine a legal aid review to satisfy the criminal defense attorneys who have taken professional action regarding the amount of compensation they're being paid.

    Justice minister says province unwilling to undermine Legal Aid Alberta review

  4. The Calgary Courts Center was photographed on May 3, 2021.

    Defense lawyer associations call for better funding for legal aid

  5. Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro answers questions during a press conference, in Calgary, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. Criminal defense attorneys stepped up legal action Thursday in a dispute over ongoing with the provincial government over the amount of compensation paid by Legal Aid Alberta.

    ‘Enough’: Alberta defense lawyers step up in legal aid battle

  6. On Saturday, three organizations representing Alberta's criminal defense lawyers issued an ultimatum to Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, saying they would withdraw from legal aid without the infusion of new funds.

    Alberta legal aid lawyers threaten to press for ‘perpetual neglect of funding’

The increased funding is an insufficient makeshift measure that shows the UCP government has been dishonest with Albertans, NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir said.

“Tyler Shandro has spent the past several months saying that it would be impossible to change the tariff mid-year. Today’s announcement shows that the Minister has continued to mislead Albertans and legal aid lawyers,” he said.

“This announcement is a stopgap measure taken in the final hours of Prime Minister (Jason) Kenney’s government that falls short of what legal aid lawyers are asking for. I urge the next Prime Minister to negotiate in good faith to pay legal aid arrears under the 2018 (NDP) agreement, and to continuously review rates and eligibility criteria so that are comparable to those of other large provinces.

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Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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