Alberta is investing tens of millions in new funding to help citizens get timelier justice services and increase access to legal help. The investment will also help make sure Alberta’s voice remains strong on its priorities and interests.
“Improving life in the province by making sure Albertans get the legal help they need is a priority. In Budget 2023, by increasing investment in legal aid, civil Crown counsel and Crown prosecutors, we are strengthening the justice system – making it more accessible and reliable for all Albertans.”
Legal aid funding
Alberta’s government is increasing the budget for legal aid by $40 million (42 per cent) to $134 million. This funding increase will ensure Albertans can get legal advice and assistance from a strong roster of lawyers when they need it, and helps ensure fees and lawyer efforts are properly matched and the legal aid tariff reflects current court processes and legal practices for lawyers.
Alberta’s government will also work with Legal Aid Alberta to support its continuing work to ensure all Albertans can get legal help when they need it.
“Demand for legal assistance never stops and Legal Aid Alberta works tirelessly to advocate for equal access to justice. This funding increase will enable us to significantly advance our path forward, resulting in a stronger legal aid system for all Albertans. This support is an essential step to improving access to justice.”
In Budget 2023, funding for the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service is increasing by $20 million (18 per cent) to $128 million.
Access to a fair, timely and cost-effective legal system is important for Albertans. Using $4.6 million from the budget, Alberta is hiring 16 more prosecutors to support the expansion of a pre-charge assessment system. This helps ensure only strong cases move forward in the court system. Albertans end up saving time and money, as they don’t pay to retain counsel or use legal aid. These prosecutors review charges and provide their assessment to law enforcement, which then decides whether to lay a charge.
It is estimated that pre-charge assessment could reduce the number of charges entering the criminal justice system by about 20 per cent. This results in a focus on the most viable charges, including those considered to be serious and violent. The provincewide rollout of pre-charge assessment to RCMP detachments is expected to be complete by early 2024.
Funding will also be provided to hire a prosecutor specializing in firearms-related prosecutions. Previously announced funding to recruit and retain Crown prosecutors will be fully funded in this budget.
Budget 2023 will increase funding for the Legal Services Division by $20 million (44 per cent) to $65 million.
The Legal Services Division provides legal services to all Government of Alberta ministries and represents them in matters before the courts and tribunals. It is also responsible for drafting government bills and regulations.
Increased funding to hire more civil Crown counsel will help provide legal services such as drafting grants and contracts, along with defending civil lawsuits and drafting legislation. Funding will also reduce government’s total legal spend and maintain internal legal expertise.