Trudeau rescues legal aid underfunded by Doug Ford

Finance Politics

The federal government is providing $ 26.8 million this year for Ontario refugee and immigrant legal aid services, which are severely impacted by significant provincial budget cuts.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement Monday in Toronto, just weeks before the federal election campaign was officially launched.

In a partisan tone, the Prime Minister linked cuts to health services for refugees that had been imposed by the Stephen Harper government in 2012.

Another Conservative government, Doug Ford, is abandoning services to the most vulnerable, which is very frustrating , Trudeau said.

In its fight against the deficit, the Conservative government of Doug Ford cut funding for legal aid by one-third. He also banned the money being spent on asylum seeker and immigration files.

This is not the first time the federal government has announced additional funding to counter the scope of the Ford government’s cuts. In particular, Ottawa awarded an operating grant to the University of Ontario in France and saved a tree planting program.

In response to a reporter’s question, the Prime Minister acknowledged that he could not systematically increase funding for programs that are a shared responsibility when a province cuts.

A less funded province?

The federal announcement took the Ford government by surprise.

According to Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey, Ontario receives only 35% of funding for refugee and immigrant legal aid, compared to 70 to 80% for other provinces.

On Monday afternoon, Mr. Downey did not know whether the federal funding announced was an addition or whether it represented all of what would be paid by Ottawa in 2019-20, which would leave the province still with a shortfall. .

When asked about the cuts, the prosecutor argued that the province should protect the entire legal aid system. We can not penalize other legal aid clients in family law or criminal law, he argued, because the federal government refuses to act.

The province had written to Ottawa three times to request an increase in federal funding for this file. Federal Justice Minister David Lametti finally responded earlier this summer and agreed with the Ontario Attorney General not to make the issue partisan.

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