Today, Legal Aid Ontario announced how they will implement Doug Ford’s funding cuts. While the cuts will be devastating to a range of services and sectors, of particular interest to injured workers is the fact that the province’s three worker-focused clinics were singled out for particularly deep cuts.
The Ford Government had promised no front-line jobs would be lost as a result of their austerity measures, and Legal Aid had indicated they were aiming to preserve client-facing staff as well. These cuts show that neither assurance was genuine, as the vast majority – if not all – staff members at the worker clinics are client-interacting front-line workers.
At an office like Injured Workers Community Legal Clinic (IWC), for example (where funding was cut by 22%) there are no staff that don’t directly serve clients. 85% of their budget goes to pay these front-line staff. No significant purchases or upgrades have been made in recent years, no new hires have happened since 2016, the single photocopier/printer/fax-machine is outdated, the furniture is 20 years old, and the phones haven’t been upgraded since the 1980s. A 22% cut can only result in the loss of front line jobs and the reduction of services to low income workers in Toronto and all over Ontario. Because the cuts are retroactive to April 1st, 2019, savings cannot be achieved via attrition. If Legal Aid proceeds with these cuts, IWC would have to eliminate three to four jobs out of a staff of ten. It is hard to imagine that they could continue providing even close to the current level of services in these circumstances.
Further, Legal Aid Ontario is trying to implement cuts that specifically target the community-building and law-reform efforts of the clinic system, despite the fact that these programs are protected in legislation and individual funding agreements.
In short – it seems likely that Ontario workers will experience a severe and immediate drop in the quality, accessibility, and spectrum of services that are available to them, which is sure to have a negative rippling effect through the justice system as a whole. Worker-focused clinics – and all Legal Aid funded services – will need the support of their communities in order to survive this attack.
Stay tuned to Injured Workers Online to find out how you can help.
See the statement form the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario for more details on these cuts.