Despite cuts to Ontario’s legal aid system announced in the 2019 Ontario budget, Premier Doug Ford says he guarantees that anyone who needs legal aid will receive it.
“If anyone needs support on legal aid, feel free to call my office. I will guarantee you that you will have legal aid,” Ford told Global News Radio during an unscheduled call to the Alan Carter Show on Monday.
Saying he “almost hit three telephone poles” while listening to the previous segment, Ford said he needed to clear up “misleading stuff” he had heard.
Ford touched on a number of topics in the subsequent interview, with legal aid cuts being one of the most notable.
In the Ontario budget released earlier this month, Legal Aid Ontario’s funding was $133 million less in this fiscal year than the $456 million it had anticipated.
LISTEN: The full interview with Premier Doug Ford
The Ontario Bar Association has called the cuts “drastic” and the CEO of Legal Aid Ontario told Global News the province’s move has put the organization in a “challenging” position.
Among their clients, Legal Aid Ontario regularly works with refugee claimants to help them in legal processes.
Asked about human impact changes to legal aid funding that amount to a cut of 30 per cent, Ford said that number was not accurate.
“This is what drives me crazy, Alan — that no one does their research,” he said.
“They need to be more informed. If they actually looked into it, there is more money being spent on lawyer fees and less cases,” Ford said. “The people that actually need the system to help them, they aren’t getting the proper support. We have to hold these people accountable. When there’s more money to the lawyers and less money to the people, I’ve got an issue with it.”
In response to the cuts announced in the budget, the federal government said it is “deeply disappointed” and is encouraging the Progressive Conservatives to reconsider.
— With files from Ryan Rocca and Maham Abedi
LISTEN: Alan Carter speaks to a lawyer who took up the offer by Premier Ford for Legal Aid assistance