Legal Aid clinics are important

August 12, 2019   ·   0 Comments

Often people believe Legal Aid Ontario is just about helping criminals get back on the street. This is wrong and as we say to today – it is nothing but “fake news!”

Legal Aid does provide representation to individuals accused of criminal offences who cannot afford representation. However, this is done because it is mandated by our Constitution, and rightfully so. How would the average Canadian pay for a lawyer? 

A lawyer can cost several thousand dollars, or more depending on the complexity of the case. This would allow an unprecedented number of Canadians to be charged and ultimately convicted of crimes they did not commit. This would allow radical governments to imprison people, simply because they know these Canadians cannot afford representation. Thus, bringing back the times of the witch hunts. To pursue simply individuals because they are unpopular, or disliked. 

Legal Aid also provides representation for individuals in family matters where one, or both spouses, whether common-law or married requires representation due to low or no income. This is mainly when custody of children is involved. If children were always given to the wealthiest parent, based on the ability of one wealthy parent to afford a lawyer, then this child, in many cases, does become neglected.    

Alternatively, Legal Aid Clinics provide a much different service to that of Legal Aid. They provide representation services and/or advice to under privileged individuals for different legal matters such as: Canada pension plan, workers compensation (WSIB), landlord and tenant, Ontario Disability Support Program – ODSP, and many others. This of course depends on the Legal Aid Clinic’s capabilities and limited resources. In Toronto for example, many Legal Aid Clinics have had their budget dramatically cut, where they have been forced to reduce their staff by as much as 40%. 

Here comes the important part of how Ontario’s legal Aid Clinics save taxpayers money! So, now you know that workers compensation is NOT funded by taxpayers and is privately funded by employers. You also know that when an injured worker’s claim is denied and/or delayed, they are then forced to use OW or ODSP, which is taxpayer funded. Many Ontario Legal Aid Clinics in representing these injured workers win their cases and have their workers compensation benefits fully restored. Thereby transferring the cost of workplace injuries, from the Ontario taxpayer, back to the employer, where it should rightfully be. 

There are many other examples of how the Ontario Legal Aid Clinics save Ontario taxpayers. Unfortunately, the Ontario Legal Aid system, which can easily justify its existence through legal principle and cost savings to Ontario taxpayers is under attack by the Ford Conservative government. Many may wonder why Ford would make such cuts to a system, which not only attempts to protect the rights of Ontarians, but at the same time saves Ontario taxpayers millions annually. This especially when Ford has stated countless times, he is about saving taxpayers. 

One only must look at his recent decisions and comments for a better understanding of his true motives. For example, Ford announced that he was reducing the number of Ministry of Labour enforcement officers. He stated that business is capable of self-enforcement and not having to pay enforcement officers is a cost savings to taxpayers. 

Allowing business to police themselves would be like saying to Ontario drivers, “We don’t need those pesky police officers, we believe everyone will follow the posted speed limits, so we will get rid of them”. From this example you can only imagine the serious problems with that part of his argument. 

Ford is advancing the statement as if to say the Ministry of Labour enforcement officers cost taxpayers. Contrary to what Ford states, the enforcement officers, like traffic police officers, generate massive revenues for Ontario taxpayers in the form of fines. One need only look at the Ministry of Labour website, to see the huge fines levied against businesses. For example, in one case a company was fined $950,000 for the death of four workers. That fine, as well as all the other fines, goes to Ontario taxpayers. Then last Fall (2018), Ford stated that the WSIB was returning almost $2 billion in premiums to employers/businesses. Ford also stated this was a huge savings to taxpayers. If the premiums are charged to business to prevent Ontario taxpayers caring for injured workers, how is this a savings to taxpayers? It is not, unless you are one of those big businesses getting a big fat cheque. 

My point and yes, I do have a point Ford claims he is saving taxpayers money with the unthoughtful, kneejerk reactionary cuts he implemented. However, the only ones who saved, if you look deep enough, was big business! 

Ford wants to cut any government programs to save not taxpayers, but business, because their only interest is business. Not the Ontario hard working taxpayers of Ontario. 

After all, isn’t Ontario “Open for Business”?              

Paul Taylor

President Injured Workers of Wellington Dufferin

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