The Lawyer Director of the Nipissing Community Legal Clinic hopes the Ford government repeats what it did with cuts to autism and reverses budget reductions to the legal aid system in Ontario.
Stuart Bailey says in Nipissing, the cuts amount to two percent.
However, Bailey says the legal clinics in Toronto like the Income Security Advocacy Centre is seeing deeper cuts and that’s having a ripple effect in Nipissing.
Bailey says the Nipissing clinic depends on research work done by the Toronto advocacy group and the quality of the local work will suffer as a consequence.
“They’ve been cut and we feed off the research they do for us and that adversely affects us,” Bailey said.
Bailey says the Nipissing clinic helps low-income people who are having problems remaining housed or simply running into problems getting enough money to live on.
“But the government has shown an ability to reconsider past decisions where there were cuts like the harsh cuts in autism and we hope it does the same with legal aid funding,” Bailey said.
Bailey says in addition to the reduction in quality of work the Nipissing clinic provides, it was hoping to expand its services to help people with problems with the Worker Safety Insurance Board.
“However, that’s now stalled because there’s no money for it,” he said.
Bailey says the two percent cut has not resulted in any lost jobs in Nipissing.
But he says it’s a different story for other legal clinics in Ontario.
He says there’s one Toronto clinic where employees have voluntarily taken a 20 percent wage cut just so they can maintain the same level of service as they had prior to the budget cuts.
Bailey says other clinics will have to consider layoffs while employees at other sites simply retired which helped avoid someone else being laid off.
Bailey made his comments outside the constituency office of Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli Tuesday afternoon.
In response, Fedeli says the fact is two-thirds of legal clinics will receive a larger funding allocation this year than they spent last year.
Fedeli says this includes “Nipissing, based on quarterly reports submitted by clinics”.
Fedeli referred to the Auditor General’s 2018 Annual Report that shows in recent years more money has been spent without achieving the results that legal aid clients or taxpayers should expect.
Fedeli says the Legal Aid budget has more than $430 million.
He says that amount could increase if the federal government pays for the services that it is responsible for.
Fedeli says the Ford government continues to work with Legal Aid Ontario to review services so low-income people have access to effective legal aid services.
He says some lawyers and special interest groups may be critical of the government’s approach but adds this is a new era of accountability at Legal Aid Ontario and it’s necessary to “make legal aid sustainable”.