By The Globe and Mail Staff The Internet and telecommunications providers are now the largest source of revenue for provincial and territorial governments and are the primary source of legal services for the province’s courts, according to a new report.
The province estimates that the legal sector contributes more than $1.4 billion a year to the provincial economy, while the legal services industry contributes $1 billion annually, the report by the Canadian Association of Legal Services (CLA) says.
Legal services are often the last part of an economic recovery after an economic downturn.
In Ontario, the legal industry contributes more to the province than any other sector, contributing $1,067 per capita in revenue.
“Legal services are a significant source of provincial revenues,” said Chris Leung, a CLA board member and professor at Carleton University’s Munk School of Global Affairs.
“They are also the last resource to be provided to our citizens and businesses.”
The CLA board has also called for the government to consider a cap on the amount of income from legal services that could be collected by provincial governments.
The cap has been debated in recent years.
Some argue that while a cap is needed to balance the economic benefits of legal aid and legal services to society with the financial costs of maintaining an efficient legal system, it does not address the root causes of rising costs in the legal system.
“Our economic and social problems are the result of inadequate legal services,” said Jean-Pierre Perron, president of the association.
“There is no solution to the current problem unless we address these issues.”
Legal services account for more than half of the provincial government’s revenue.
Legal aid and community legal aid account for less than 1 per cent of the total, according the CLA.
The CLA also says the province should not be allowed to spend more on the legal service industry than it takes in from its other revenue sources, such as employment insurance and social assistance.
A spokesperson for the provincial Liberals says they have been working with legal services agencies to address the growing legal services shortage.
“We know there is an opportunity to address this issue by setting a cap,” said spokesperson Lauren Pappas.
“While the cap is a suggestion, it is not an absolute prohibition.”
The Liberals are also seeking to strengthen penalties for people convicted of a crime that they did not commit.
Currently, someone who commits a crime and is subsequently found guilty can be fined or sentenced to prison.
The Liberals say they will introduce legislation that would impose harsher penalties for those convicted of drug crimes, such a drug trafficking offence, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of stolen property, as well as for non-violent offenders.
“If a crime was committed against a child, it would be a crime against the child, which is something we would like to see in this bill,” said Pappat.
“A crime would be punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence, so we’d like to do that in this particular bill.
We’d like it to be much tougher than what is currently there, so it’s something that would be very significant.”
The government says it is committed to providing better legal services in the province, but will take some time to do so.
The Canadian Bar Association says it has been in contact with the province and will continue to work with the CLA to ensure legal services are adequately funded.
“The provinces legal services budget is currently in surplus,” said Carol Hildebrand, president and CEO of the Canadian Bar Assn.
“That’s the situation in the private sector.
If we don’t make sure we’re spending the money wisely, the government could be forced to close down.”
The ACCLA also notes that there are other ways the province could fund legal services such as: •The provincial and provincial governments could take money from other sources to cover legal fees and expenses; •The provinces public sector could contribute to legal services through its own employees or through contracts with other public sector bodies; •the provinces private sector could support legal services by providing legal services; or •other private sector organizations could provide services, such to community groups or community lawyers.
“It’s not a question of whether the province or the federal government should be funding this, it’s a question about how they should fund it,” said Leung.
“When it comes to the federal contribution, the federal governments role is limited to helping with a certain amount of money per year, so there is a limited amount of funding available.”
A federal budget for 2017-18 includes a $20-million increase in the federal support for legal and community services, according a news release.
Legal and community service costs are expected to rise in all provinces in 2018-19, according TOA Canada.
“In the coming years, as legal and other services continue to rise, the cost of these services will continue their steep rise,” said Hildebrant.
“As they have done for many