Focus On

Letter to the editor

Thursday, January 12, 2017 @ 7:00 PM  

Dear Editor:

The Supreme Court of Canada recently, again, cited delays in criminal trial scheduling which breached the accused’s right to a fair and speedy trial and stayed serious criminal charges.

It is self-evident that lack of resources caused by inadequate funding of the justice system is the main cause of the delays. However, unavailability of counsel to act for the accused, at the totally inadequate remuneration available through legal aid, is also a contributing factor.

Yet funding is available in Ontario, from lawyers. As a result of the extension of the federal goods and services tax to lawyers’ accounts (which took place when the Ontario sales tax was harmonized with the federal GST in 2010), 8 per cent of all billings by lawyers to their clients is paid in provincial sales tax. Using rough (and probably low) estimates for the number of lawyers in private practice in Ontario (30,000) and their average annual billings ($200,000), I calculated that HST raises about half a billion dollars a year for the provincial treasury.

This is found money. And if even just some of it was dedicated to the provincial justice system, the provincial government would be well able to afford to fund an effective legal aid plan, as well as to pay for more judges and court staff.

Frank P. Oster

Oster Wolfman LLP