Province injects $70M into Alberta's Legal Aid program
Financial boost for legal services provided to low-income Albertans follows years of underfunding complaints
After years of complaints about chronic underfunding, Alberta's Legal Aid program is getting an additional $70 million under a new five-year agreement with the province announced Thursday.
The NDP government is adding $14.8 million into this year's budget for the program, which provides legal services to low-income Albertans. The program will receive an additional $17.5 million in 2019-20, $16.6 million in 2020-21 and $21.1 million in 2021-22.
- Alberta government makes Legal Aid lawyers available at bail hearings
- 'Not an empty threat': Criminal defence lawyers warn of potential strike
"It is the most dramatic improvement to the Legal Aid plan in 40 years," said Kevin Feth, chairman of the Law Society of Alberta Legal Aid Task Force.
He said the funding increase will give more people access to duty counsel and lawyers who specialize in family law.
The changes in the latest five-year agreement came after a review of the program. The previous agreement was set to expire in 2019.
The extra funding will help pay for additional lawyers on staff as well as private defence counsel.
Legal Aid Alberta will also work on streamlining services for clients.
For example, a client will only have to explain their situation to one person instead of repeating it at multiple points in the process, said Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley.