2012 Budget Targets Justice For $ 77 Million Cut :: Association of Justice Counsel News
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March 30th, 2012
March 30th, 2012
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2012 Budget Targets Justice For $ 77 Million Cut

After months of speculation, the 2012 Budget yesterday began to unveil the extent of anticipated cuts to the federal public service. A close read of the budget package confirms that the Justice Portfolio has been targeted for a $ 77 million reduction over three years. This represents a significant 10% cut which will further diminish resources even while courts are crammed, and Canadians say that law and order is their top long term priority.
 
Amidst all the fine print, what remains to be seen is whether the DOJ, PPSC and other federal legal branches will be able to lower their bottom lines primarily through retirements and early voluntary departures -- so called "natural attrition" -- or through blunt workforce adjustment. Those details are not spelled out in the budget, and instead will be left to be determined by departments as they weigh their options.
 
Meanwhile, the AJC has requested a meeting with senior management at the earliest opportunity, where we will continue to take the position that the impact of the cuts on our membership have to be minimized if the department is serious about maintaining high quality legal services and does not want to trigger an exodus of legal expertise.
 
As for collective bargaining, the long term picture remains unclear. The good news is that there does not appear to be any wage restraint that would interfere with the upcoming arbitration. The bad news is that the 2012 Budget states “specific action” will be taken to eliminate the accrual of severance pay, but stops short of saying whether the employer will legislate. We will have to wait for the budget implementation act to know for sure. Other areas affected include "50-50" pension contributions, and a higher retirement age for new public servants beginning in 2013. The net effect is that we will be working longer, harder and with less support. Recruitment and retention will continue to suffer, especially in Alberta, BC and Ontario.
 
As for Canadians, they will have a hard time squaring this austerity budget with the government´s tough talk on law and order. Not even six months ago, the crime omnibus bill (C-10) was the centerpiece of an ambitious legislative agenda over the first 100 days of government. Countless experts and stakeholders within the justice system argued nearly unanimously against the failure to invest and properly allocate additional resources necessary for crime prevention. Not only does the 2012 Budget fail to invest in justice, it slashes existing resources, which will result in further trial delays in a court system that is already at the brink.
 
When it comes to community safety, many will no doubt be left to wonder whether the 2012 Budget is penny wise and pound foolish.
 

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