Legal Aid funds diverted by BC Government in excess of $100 million dollars. Legal? Yes. Moral or right? No.
Without a doubt, there has been ample attention this week to Yoga on the bridge and today, the flippant, somewhat childish attempt by the premier to poke fun at the thousands of people who are upset and outraged.
A welcome distraction from the ongoing health care scandal that revealed the BC government did not actually give the RCMP information they claimed they had, to the press and the public. One man took his life-let us not forget.
I’ve written of many of the BC Liberals most compelling failures over the years – and there are many. Failures of policy, failures of action, you can find it all here.
But among the list of more than 100 reasons the BC Liberals need to go are the many sweeping cuts made to the services that assist the provinces most vulnerable population.
When Campbell came in, he made massive cuts to personal income taxes, and to corporate tax. While British Columbians cheered at having more money in their pockets, the resulting hole in provincial revenue those tax cuts made, had to be accounted for. And to be honest, it never really was. We began seeing MSP increases and user fees, which are a form of regressive taxation.
And the most vulnerable among us, the ones least likely to complain as they struggle to make it through what life’s handed them,began to see cuts.
Cuts to legal aid, cuts to women’s centres, cuts to funding social service agencies and non-profits. The list is long and extensive. And very sad.
Legal aid took a huge hit.
85% of legal aid offices in BC were closed, including 5 regional officers. 75% staff reduction.Family law cut by half. Closure of the law line.
A complete timeline of the cuts can be found here. http://www.povnet.org/node/3629
But there is no money, the government has said time and time again with only minimal increases to funding.
So imagine the surprise many are going to feel when they hear that according to this lawyer, the BC government has been diverting in excess of $100 million dollars of the funds meant to go to Legal Aid, into other things?
And while it is perfectly legal, it is indeed morally wrong and it takes help out of the hands of those who need it most.
The special tax paid on legal services is meant to fund legal aid. But apparently… it’s been used elsewhere.
CFAX radio had the exclusive today. I urge you to all read this, and to listen to the interview.
” Victoria 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.”