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Wins and losses for justice system in UCP budget

25-10-2019

Alberta Justice will lose 198 positions in the next year, about a quarter of all public sector jobs being cut. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

 

While Alberta's justice system will see significant cuts in some areas, the newly unveiled provincial budget focuses funding bumps in areas that align with the United Conservative Party's rural crime strategy.

 

Over the next four years, operating expenses will drop nearly $100 million, or about 6.5 per cent.

 

Alberta Justice will lose 198 positions in the next year, about a quarter of all public sector jobs being cut.

 

Premier Jason Kenney said most of the job losses within the public service would be through attrition, though some would come as layoffs. 

 

In response to concern over rural crime, the budget offers funding injections for drug treatment courts as well as the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) and dozens of new prosecutor positions.

 

According to the fiscal plan, ALERT could see up to $50 million over the next four years.

 

Kenney also kept his campaign commitment to hire 50 new Crown prosecutors.

 

"We're very pleased," said Matthew Block with the Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association. "This is very good for an under-resourced Crown prosecution service."

 

But Block says the Crown's office has a retention problem that will make it difficult to hire 50 prosecutors. The Crown's office has seen prosecutors leave in recent years because of workload and salary freezes.

 

Prosecutors have faced a salary freeze for most of the past decade and now it's unclear if that will continue for another four years, though Kenney has said the province is aiming for wage restraint across the board.

 

"It's particularly acute for junior prosecutors," said Block of the efforts to hire. "We're falling behind significantly."

 

$27-million boost for eCourts

Resolution and Court Administration Services — under which court clerks fall — will lose nearly a quarter of its budget in the next four years. 

 

The province will spend $27 million on eCourts over the next four years in an effort to make the justice system more accessible to Albertans.

 

"Alberta's justice system is based primarily on paper records and decades-old processes," reads one of the budget documents released Thursday.

 

"Over several years, electronic court records will become the official record, more traffic tickets will be payable online and court operations will be modernized."

 

Justice Ministry says budget allows job creation, modernization

When asked how the budget would impact the Ministry of Justice, the department said in a statement that it reflects the government's dedication to the safety of Albertans.

 

"Our government is committed to keeping Albertans safe, secure, and protected.  To that end, we are fulfilling our commitments by providing $10 million for 50 new prosecutors and support staff, $20 million over four years to expand Alberta's Drug Treatment Courts to prevent crime, assisting Albertans with addictions get their lives back on track so they don't re-offend, and $50 million over four years years for ALERT to disrupt serious gang activity and protect children from exploitation," the statement read.

 

"We are also ensuring that Albertans have a fairer, faster, and more responsive justice system. To maintain that commitment, we have allocated $27 million in capital funding in the coming years to modernize services such as making courts more accessible for those who need to access services through the digital transformation of courts, including improving the ability to address traffic tickets online, enabling access to justice digitally in areas such as court filings and scheduling, and modernizing court processes through technology to deliver more user-friendly and convenient services online."

 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/ucp-budget-justice-ministry-alert-prosecutors-1.5336233