From the President
CBA Government Relations Advocacy
by Robert C Brun
During my term as President the Branch has been working to develop an effective government relations advocacy program to protect and advance the interests of lawyers in British Columbia. So much of what the CBA does involves advocacy with the provincial and federal governments. Legal aid issues and access to justice concerns are always front and centre and our members expect the CBA to constantly advocate in these areas. In this article I would like to shift the focus to several other initiatives that our members may not be aware of:
1. The campaign to remove the Social Service Tax on legal services
Back in 1992 the Social Services Tax Act was amended by the previous government to include a 7 per cent provincial tax on legal services. Purportedly this was to fund legal aid. Over the past 12 years the funds collected have gone into the government’s general revenues and are not being used for their stated purpose. Legal fees are the only professional fees subject to a provincial sales tax. The tax is now 7.5 per cent. Ironically, the increase from 7 to 7.5 per cent was introduced by government to help finance increased medical costs in the province. In the result, the tax on legal services has gone up to fund medical aid at a time when legal aid funding has gone down.
CBABC representatives have met with approximately 24 MLAs and Ministers over the past several months to advocate the removal of this tax. The key messages that we are delivering include:
- The 7.5 per cent tax is discriminatory and unfair;
- The tax is not being used for the purpose for which it was intended; and
- The tax does not allow B.C. businesses (law firms and their clients) to be competitive.
To further advance this campaign we are in the process of forming a Social Services Tax Task Force. The sole purpose of this group will be to advocate the elimination of this discriminatory tax. We expect the task force to be in place by the end of March.
2. The Real Estate Act
Recently the government proposed changes to the Real Estate Act that would eliminate the right of lawyers to help their clients sell real estate. CBABC initiated an intensive campaign and consultation process with the Real Estate Association, Real Estate Council, Law Society and Society of Notaries Public. We are pleased to announce that it appears that the efforts of all parties to reach agreement have been successful, and the lawyers exemption under the Act will remain.
3. Solicitors Liens and the Personal Information Protection Act
CBABC and the Law Society have raised to government our shared concerns that the Personal Information Protection Act might permit individuals to use privacy legislation to improperly defeat valid solicitors’ liens. The CBABC has been lobbying extensively with the government, including the Minister responsible, to ensure that this unintended consequence is remedied. On March 23, I met with the Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Management Services, to discuss this issue and potential solutions. The CBABC will continue to work to obtain an effective resolution of this potential conflict.
The role of the CBA
The Canadian Bar Association’s primary focus is to ensure that the interests of lawyers are protected and advanced. National and CBABC staff, plus an army of dedicated lawyer volunteers, work tirelessly to fulfil this mandate. As Branch President I am truly amazed at the time and energy our members give to meet this commitment.
This article was published in the April 2004 issue of BarTalk. © 2004 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.