Nfld. & Labrador

Provincial courts in Harbour Grace, Wabush spared in latest budget reversal

Provincial court locations in Harbour Grace and Wabush will remain open, Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said Friday.
The current provincial court location in Harbour Grace. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

Provincial court locations in Harbour Grace and Wabush will remain open, Justice Minister Andrew Parsons announced Friday.

Parsons said as a result of a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision — R. v. Jordan, which stated provincial court trials should be completed in 18 months — and "new cost savings," both locations will be saved.

Speaking to reporters, Parsons said the decision in particular saved the Wabush location, due to its isolation from the next nearest court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, more than five hundred kilometres away.

"If that's going to lead to us breaching charter rights of individuals, now where we have the defined ceiling in cases, we can't allow that to happen," he said, adding the cases seen at Harbour Grace would've been transferred to the already burdened court in St. John's, also creating potential backlogs.

Parsons said R. v. Jordan will have a "huge effect" on the way trials are dealt with in the province, as the system tries to figure out how quickly it's dealing with cases.

The province's branch of the Canadian Bar Association applauded the move, although a press release from the opposition Conservatives said the Liberals didn't do their homework before announcing the closures.

Minister Andrew Parsons says the Supreme Court decision will have a huge effect on the province's justice system. (CBC)

Parsons said all employees have been notified of the change, and there will be no change to staffing levels at either court.

Lease saves Harbour Grace

Parsons added the province found additional savings in Harbour Grace, by negotiating a lease in a new building that reduced those costs by $100,000 each year, that allowed the court to stay open.

Friday's announcement is the latest in a series of decisions in which the governing Liberals have reversed or scaled back controversial moves made in April's budget. 

Last month, Parsons announced that another two courts that had been set to close — the supreme courts in Grand Falls-Windsor and Grand Bank — would in fact stay open

With all the court closures now reversed, Parsons said he had no regrets about the initial austere measures.

"I think through the actions that we took, that has led us to savings now that we didn't have before. We have solutions that allow us to save taxpayers money," he said.

Three weeks ago, the government announced it would review small, rural libraries that had been set to close. 

In May, the government dramatically softened one of the budget's most contentious measures, a so-called deficit reduction levy, by exempting everyone earning less than $50,000 a year in income. Critics had called the levy a regressive move that would hurt poor families the most.