The new Governance Agreement and sustainable funding framework announced on Oct. 11 will give Legal Aid Alberta the flexibility it needs to help ensure the most vulnerable Albertans are able to access legal services and protect their legal rights.
The agreement, signed with the Government of Alberta and the Law Society of Alberta, will provide an additional $70 million over the next four years, which includes $14.8 million for the current fiscal year, increasing Legal Aid’s operating grant to $104.1 million for 2018-19.
John Panusa, President and CEO of Legal Aid Alberta, joined Premier Rachel Notley and Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley to make the announcement, and said that the time and effort that went into the new agreement is an example of the renewed spirit of collaboration in Alberta’s justice system.
“Never in Legal Aid Alberta’s 40-plus year history has there been an agreement that looks to the future and gives us the flexibility and tools to deliver services to those who need it,” said Panusa. “Sustainable funding for our organization doesn’t just allow us to represent more Albertans, it allows us the capacity to innovate and improve the way we deliver services to ensure Albertans continue to receive tremendous value for dollar.
“We make a substantial contribution to improving the efficiency of the Alberta justice system, and our services play a vital part in ensuring the system is able to function properly.”
How business is done
Legal Aid Alberta will look at redesigning the way it does business over the coming year, and will look at how it can modernize service delivery so clients receive quality services appropriate to their circumstances in a timely and efficient way.
“We are excited about this work, and will be involving stakeholders from across Alberta as we move forward towards a better legal aid system in our great province,” said Panusa. “However, the work and subsequent changes will take some time, and we will ensure we keep all key stakeholders informed along the way as initiatives begin to take shape.”
The agreement recognizes Legal Aid Alberta provides essential and high-quality legal services for Albertans, especially disadvantaged and low-income members of our community, to ensure meaningful access to legal rights and the protection of the law for the benefit of all Albertans.
Relationship with signatories clarified
The agreement also defines Legal Aid Alberta as a single, unified organization that must provide services in a “cost effective, innovative and flexible” way that provides best value for dollars spent.
It is also responsible for providing “the best possible coverage within an affordable funding envelope” that contributes to a fair, accessible justice system for all Albertans.
The agreement also creates some clarity around the relationship between Legal Aid Alberta and the other signatories. It explicitly recognizes Legal Aid Alberta’s independence from the Minister and the Law Society while clarifying accountability to both.
The agreement also refers to the need for these relationships to be based on “the principles of transparency, mutual respect and consultation in matters that affect this common interest”.
There were no significant changes to Legal Aid Alberta’s mandate compared to the previous agreement, but a full list of service offerings that we are required to provide was included as part of the agreement and can be found on the Legal Aid Alberta website.