Liberal 2016 Budget finds its sunny ways and a looks to improve Canada's Justice System :: Association of Justice Counsel News
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March 31st, 2016
March 31st, 2016

Liberal 2016 Budget finds its sunny ways and a looks to improve Canada's Justice System

On March 22 2016, Finance Minister Bill Morneau introduced his government's first budget. The Budget has the government running a deficit for the next few years, however, it does send a clear message that investment in public service is needed.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison has been tasked with "strengthening" the public service to ensure it is "innovative, agile, collaborative and high-performing" to provide advice and deliver services to Canadians.

The Budget highlights several public service related items including:

  • Reiterating the government's commitment to collective bargaining and stating it will not make any unilateral changes to sick leave.
  • Committing to annually cutting $221 million to government advertising, contracted out professional services and travel. Most of that cut in the first year will come from the use of external consultants, which has ballooned over the last decade.
  • Proposing significantly lowering the annual operating costs for government, while spending $75.2 million over two years to make that transformation happen.
  • Continuing Shared Services Canada's consolidation of information technology programs for the government by increasing funding by $383.8 million over the next two years.
  • Making a proposal of $77.4 million to improve the government's IT security over the next five years.

The Budget also provides a framework for improving Canada's Justice System and Canadians ability to access justice. The Budget highlights three specifics initiatives including:

  1. Reinstating the Court Challenges Program of Canada. The Court Challenges Program provides financial assistance for individuals and groups who wish to clarify their language and equality rights in Canada's courts. This program has been instrumental in bringing cases to the courts that clarify and assert Charter rights. Budget 2016 proposes to provide new funding of $12 million over five years to support the Court Challenges Program of Canada. When combined with existing federal investments, total funding will be $5 million annually. (Budget 2016, Chapter 5, Page 182)
  2. Ensuring Access To Justice:  Access to criminal legal aid promotes justice for economically disadvantaged persons and helps ensure the Canadian justice system remains fair and efficient. Federal, provincial and territorial governments each contribute to the delivery of legal aid. Budget 2016 provides $88 million over five years, starting in 2016-17, to increase funding in support of the provision of criminal legal aid in Canada. (Budget 2016, Chapter 5, Page 183)
  3. A More Efficient Federal Court System: Canadians expect a justice system that is accessible and efficient. The Courts Administration Service is an arm's-length federal organization that provides support to the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada and the Tax Court of Canada. Federal Courts judges prepare files, conduct hearings and write decisions at locations across Canada. Budget 2016 proposes to provide $7.9 million over five years to the Courts Administration Service to invest in information technology infrastructure upgrades to safeguard the efficiency of the federal court system. Budget 2016 also proposes to provide up to $2.6 million over two years on a cash basis to help relocate the Quebec City Federal Courts facility, thereby ensuring continued Federal Courts presence in Quebec City. (Budget 2016, Chapter 5, Page 184)

The 2016 Budget is the first chapter for the Liberal Government to fulfill its election promises and implement the "real change" for Canadians. The AJC remains cautiously optimistic with this Budget and returning to the negotiation table under this budget's new mandate.

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