Legal Aid funds diverted by BC Government

Legal Aid DiversionVictoria lawyer Michael Mulligan on CFAX 1070 with Pamela McCall discussing new freedom of information data the reveals the amount of money being diverted from the legal aid system by the provincial government. The FOI information reveals that $171.7 million was collected in 2014 by a special tax on legal services while only $74.9 million was used for the intended purpose.

The special tax on legal services was introduced by the NDP in 1992 for the express purpose of funding legal aid. After several years the tax was collecting more money than the government was providing to legal aid. When in opposition, the BC Liberals were critical of the NDP for the diversion of $15 million from this special tax.

When in opposition the then Liberal critic asked the following in the legislature, “I’m sure we can quibble about the numbers but the larger public policy question remains. Isn’t there something wrong with the government taking all this money from legal accounts as a result of a tax which was imposed, the justification of which was for legal aid, yet it doesn’t actually really direct all of that revenue into the legal aid system.”

As a result of substantial cuts to legal aid funding including for the provision of poverty law and family law services, the amount of tax revenue being diverted is now in excess of $100 million per year as the federal government provides the provincial government with more then $13.5 million per year to assist with the cost of criminal legal aid.

FOI Data on the amount of money collected by the special tax on legal services:

FIN-2015-50948

Report from the Legal Services Society showing the amount of money provided by the BC provincial government:

annualServicePlanReport_2013

A link to facts and figures from the Legal Services Society:

http://www.lss.bc.ca/media/byTheNumbers.php

CBC – Michael Mulligan – On The Coast with Stephen Quinn discussing this story:

http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Local+Shows/British+Columbia/On+The+Coast/ID/2669418868/

and here:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/legal-aid-funding-short-changed-by-b-c-government-claims-victoria-lawyer-1.3112305