FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 15, 2005
VICTORIA, B.C.–In response to the release of the Government of B.C.’s budget, and the province’s projected surplus of $1.4 billion, the Canadian Bar Association B.C. Branch renewed its call for the government to remove the 7 per cent provincial tax on legal services and to adequately fund legal aid and Crown Counsel.
Social Services Tax
Speaking in Victoria following the announcement of the government’s budget, CBABC Vice President Meg Shaw argued that maintaining the tax on legal services is inconsistent with the government’s objectives of creating a more competitive business environment in B.C. and of ensuring a “fair and efficient justice system.” “The recent Christie case struck down the tax as an infringement of the fundamental constitutional right of access to justice by people with low incomes,” said Ms. Shaw. “The CBA maintains that the tax is an unfair and discriminatory burden on all who need legal services, and should be abolished.”
The tax on legal services was first introduced in 1992 by the NDP government. The legal profession in B.C. has opposed this tax as a barrier to accessing justice and as an unfair tax burden on consumers of legal services. Legal services are the only professional services subject to a provincial tax in B.C.
Legal Aid and Justice System Funding
It is encouraging to note that there will be increases in funding overall for Crown Counsel, court services, judiciary and criminal legal aid that will total $4.5 million in 2005/06, $9.75 million in 2006/07, and $11.05 million in 2007/08. There will be increased expenditures in legal aid specifically, including $4.6 million per year previously announced for civil legal aid and close to $600,000 for criminal legal aid in the first year and additional funds in subsequent years. The CBA continues to call on the provincial and federal governments to increase legal aid funding for family law, poverty law, criminal law and immigration law, to ensure that persons of limited incomes have access to justice.
CBABC is pleased to see an increase in each of the next three years for the hiring of Crown Counsel, as the current work demand on Crown is unsustainable. It is disappointing to note, however, that the budget does not address the compensation increases recommended to government through an arbitration process that occurred last year. The CBA continues to call on the Attorney General to ensure that the Taylor arbitration award is honoured and Crown Counsel are fairly compensated.
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About the Canadian Bar Association: The Canadian Bar Association is the professional organization responsible for representing the interests of more than 33,000 members in Canada, including 4,600 lawyers in British Columbia.
For further information: please contact:
Caroline Nevin, CBABC Associate Executive Director