Legal Aid funding to be probed by auditor general
The auditor general of Alberta is planning to review funding for the province’s troubled Legal Aid program.
In a letter to NDP MLA Rachel Notley, Merwan Saher confirmed his office is planning to perform a systems audit “in the near future.”
Notley wrote Saher last month requesting his officer look at how underfunding for Legal Aid affects the costs of court services and prosecutions. She received his reply on Tuesday.
“I know Legal Aid is doing the best that it can with the ridiculously meager resources it has at its disposal,” Notley said.
“But ultimately the best decision is to properly fund Legal Aid and that's a decision our justice minister needs to make, and that's a decision he's choosing not to.”
In April, Suzanne Polkosnik, president and CEO of Legal Aid Alberta, said the program needed another $8 million a year to continue meeting clients’ needs.
On Monday, the not-for-profit service announced it was closing six offices in northern Alberta and cutting jobs in Calgary, an effort to save $4 million over three years.
Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis has said his government is doing its part and the federal government needs to step in.
But Shannon Prithipaul, president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association, disagrees with the minister’s assessment.
“It's literally just finger pointing. It's 'Look over there! Don't look at us. We did lots of things in the past.' They didn't. They did a little bit. But they didn't do enough,” she said.
“And to say all the time 'Oh well, we did something in the past' is no answer to ‘What are you doing now?”
Denis did not respond to a request from CBC News for comment about the Legal Aid cuts.