VICTORIA – The Liberal government’s misplaced priorities are continuing to restrict British Columbians' access to the services they need such as legal aid, say the New Democrats.
“British Columbians who rely on legal aid services have been repeatedly let down by the Liberal government,” said New Democrat attorney general critic Leonard Krog. “Their priorities are completely out of touch with the realities facing B.C.’s backlogged justice system and under-funded legal aid services.
“How the government can justify telling the public that they need to tighten their belts while they themselves continue to waste $15 million on pre-election campaign ads is simply beyond me.”
Krog pointed to the ongoing withdrawal of legal aid services by the Trial Lawyers’ Association of B.C., who have been engaged in a public battle with the provincial government to protest the decade-long reduction in legal aid funding.
The protest has resulted in legal aid lawyers reducing services and in some cases, refusing cases. Despite the job action, Justice Minister Shirley Bond has stated there will be no additional funding for legal aid while the premier and the finance minister continue to defend their self-promotional ad blitz.
Under the Liberal government, funding for legal aid has been cut by $29 million since 2001, leaving British Columbians involved in legal disputes with reduced services and limited resources. Cuts to legal aid have contributed to the backlog of cases in the justice system and the inefficient use of court resources.
“The closure of legal aid offices across the province impacts a wide range of communities and disproportionately affects particularly vulnerable groups including those with low incomes, aboriginal people, and women in domestic violence situations,” said Krog.
“For the Liberals to spend untold millions on pre-election advertising while the justice minister refuses to fund a valuable public service is not only fiscally irresponsible, it’s just wrong. I don’t buy it and I don’t think the people of B.C. buy it.”
Adrian Dix and B.C.'s New Democrats believe British Columbians deserve better, and the Liberal government isn't up to the challenge. It's time for a new government with new priorities, and New Democrats are ready to bring that change, one practical step at a time.