Financial Primer

Legal Aid Alberta Financials - A Primer

Legal Aid Alberta Costs 

Legal Aid Alberta (LAA) costs are primarily driven by two factors: inflation and government policy.   

Inflation in Alberta since 2015 has been approximately 25%. LAA operations are not immune to inflationary increases.  No Alberta organization is immune. 

The Government of Alberta controls LAA costs in a legal aid plan where legal services are primarily delivered by roster lawyers. This was codified in the recently expired Governance AgreementThat Governance Agreement also allowed the Government to adjust, increase, reduce or eliminate services or rates with reasonable notice. 

The Government of Alberta determines what services we provide (Appendix II, Governance Agreement), the amount we pay for services (the tariff rate), and who receives these services (the financial eligibility guidelines for services that require financial qualification).   

Since 2014/2015 (LAA program expenses of $73M), the Government of Alberta has made the following policy changes that have driven LAA costs higher:  

  • An increase in the tariff hourly rate of 48.8% from 2014/15 to date. 
  • An increase in the financial eligibility guidelines of 32.8% since 2014/15 that now includes eligibility for working Albertans for the first time.  
  • The addition of a Justice of the Peace Bail Program that provides Albertans access to a JP lawyer 16 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. Bail hearings have grown by approximately 30% since 2019.  
  • Since 2014/15 there has been a 33% increase in Duty Counsel shifts as a result of demand that includes an increase in LAA support for specialty and therapeutic courts that require duty counsel support to operate.   

In addition, LAA has seen a significant increase of 51% for legal representation certificates issued since 2014/15.  

Although these changes have increased LAA costs, they have materially increased access to justice for Albertans. 

Number of Albertans Served 

The number of Albertans served is not reflected simply in the number of certificates issued.  Legal Aid Alberta provides Albertans with legal services for which financial eligibility is required, and services available to all Albertans regardless of income. These include bail duty counsel, duty counsel and Brydges services for advice upon detention.  

Since 2015, the number of Albertans served regardless of income has increased substantially:  

  • The JP Bail program serves over 32,000 clients annually.  
  • Busier docket courts and the additional specialty/therapeutic courts have increased duty counsel shifts by 33%, these specialty courts include Indigenous/Wellness Court, Drug Treatment Court, Mental Health Court, and Domestic Violence Courts.  
  • Brydges services provide legal advice upon detention to over 14,000 Albertans annually.  

In addition, LAA has a number of programs that seek to contain costs as much as possible.  Our Triage Program helps resolve legal issues before a certificate is issued. The Legal Aid Alberta Assessment Program produces a legal opinion to ensure that there is merit prior to issuing a certificate. These programs have avoided the creation of approximately 2,100 certificates annually and thus saving countless taxpayer dollars. 

Information Technology 

LAA’s most recent budget included significant amounts for one-time, non-recurring IT upgrades to replace end of life systems, enhance services to Albertans, keeping pace with the Government of Alberta Justice Digital programs underway and the increased security risks protecting against ransomware. These costs should not be characterized as ongoing operating costs but singular investments.     

Financial Reporting Requirements 

LAA reports the following to the Government of Alberta in accordance with the previous Governance Agreement:  

  • Monthly financials including management discussion and variance analysis 
  • An annual budget and business plan 
  • Annual audited financial statements performed by a third party 

Note: Where available, data provided has been sourced from publicly released Annual Reports and Audited Financial Statements.  Internal operational data has been used to supplement as necessary.   

Updated: July 4, 11:45 a.m. 

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