Legal aid funding short-changed by B.C. government, claims Victoria lawyer
Michael Mulligan claims $100 million difference between what government collects and what it pays out
A Victoria lawyer says the provincial government is failing to use all the money it collects for legal aid.
Michael Mulligan says he has proof that the province is short-changing B.C.'s Legal Services Society, which helps people who can't afford a lawyer.
Mulligan says documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that last year the province raised close to $172 million through a special legal services tax, in addition to $14 million from Ottawa for legal aid. However the B.C. government only spent $75 million dollars of that money on the program.
"So the net result is that the provincial government is failing to provide more than $100 million a year of this money," he said.
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"The morally right thing to do is when you collect money from people that's supposed to help the needy and disadvantaged that money should be put to that purpose and it's simply not appropriate that it be diverted to other things."
This problem of taxing for legal aid but spending it elsewhere is not unique. The Liberals bashed the NDP for doing the same thing when they were in power.
But Mulligan says the current government has taken it to a whole new level.
"They're doing many times over, what they were extremely critical of the last government for doing."
The Ministry of Justice says there has never been any structured link between the tax on legal services and legal aid funding and the government is funding new projects to help low-income British Columbians get legal help.
Listen to the audio: Legal aid funding diverted by B.C. government alleges Victoria lawyer.