More Ontarians deserve Legal Aid, Not Less
Queen’s Park—Michael Coteau, MPP for Don Valley East, slammed Attorney General Doug Downey today for saying that the 27 percent budget increase for Legal Aid under the former Liberal government was irresponsible and led to no service increases.
“The Attorney General had it backwards today when he argued increased funding to Legal Aid was wrong, when everyone knows that it’s his government’s devastating cuts that are hurting people across the province,” said Coteau. “This is a simple matter: more funding provided greater service, and this government’s cuts to Legal Aid are surely one of the many ‘mistakes’ the Premier admitted to making during his first year in office.”
“Further, the fact that the Attorney General of Ontario isn’t aware of the increase in clients and services provided by Legal Aid because of the funding increase under the previous government is quite worrying,” said Coteau, who asked Attorney General Doug Downey about Legal Aid funding in Question Period today. “As most Ontarians are no doubt aware, legal representation is increasingly expensive and out of reach for many who simply want to be fairly represented.”
Beginning in 2014 and continuing every year until the Ford Government took over, Legal Aid funding increased and so did services. In the first year alone (2014), the income threshold was increased 6 percent, the first increase since 1996. Because of this change, over a million more Ontarians qualified for legal aid. In 2016, and again in 2018, that income threshold increased by another six percent, providing 540,000 more Ontarians with access to legal aid.
“If that isn’t an increase in services for Ontarians I don’t know what is?” Coteau asked.
These kinds of predictable funding increases also allowed Legal Aid to create a multi-year strategy to target specific assistance to particular groups that have been particularly disadvantaged by not having legal representation such as victims of domestic violence, refugees and Indigenous peoples.
“These groups are particularly at risk of falling between the cracks and so it’s important to make sure there is funding for specific strategies to address these imbalances in our legal system,” Coteau concluded.
The Ford Government is standing behind these cruel and callous cuts to Legal Aid, refusing to back down.