June – MP Kent Hehr’s Report


Justice for Albertans

When Judges are in the news condemning policies and demanding action it’s typically a bad sign (“Top Alberta judges condemn trial delays, demanding Parliament acts to fill vacancies on the bench,” Kaufmann, Calgary Herald, Sept. 28, 2016).

In 2016, one judge in particular – Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Neil Wittmann – was blunt in his assessment. Of the previous federal government’s treatment of Alberta’s justice system he said this:

“The previous federal government wouldn’t even authorize the appointment of the number of judges that the Alberta government had, by statute, said they require. In my opinion that is constitutionally impermissible.” (“Alberta judge shortage at ‘breaking point,’” Grant, CBC News, Oct. 26, 2016)

In some cases, a trial would have a wait time of one or two years before it was event seen by a judge. It’s this undermining of a legal system by starving it of resources that underserves Albertans and Calgarians, and has ensuing costs to commerce, jobs, and justice for Canadians.

That’s why in 2017 our government is creating 28 new federally-appointed judicial positions, to help address demographic pressures in regions like Alberta and ensure that Canadians have timely access to justice in Canada – through an investment of $55.1 million over five years and $15.1 million per year thereafter, as well as legislative amendments.

This is in addition to the good work that provincial Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley is doing with a recently announced boost in funding, adding new judges to provincial courts, and hiring 50 new Crown prosecutors (and thirty support staff).

All Canadians – no matter their means – should have the right to a fair trial and access to a modern, efficient justice system. We are committed to ensuring that our justice system is fair, relevant and accessible to all Canadians by helping economically disadvantaged people in obtaining legal assistance and representation.

In Budget 2016, we committed to an additional $88 million over five years for legal aid funding partnerships with the provinces and territories, and today we have announced an additional $30 million per year in ongoing funding. These new funds will make more legal aid available for those who need it and will support new ways of delivering services. Performance measurement will also be added to make sure legal aid funding is doing what it needs to do.

Our 2015 platform was built for Alberta – by immediately working to ease EI rules for those hit by the commodity downturn, investing in carbon pricing to create a consensus to approve (and to soon build) four pipelines to foreign markets, and by working with international partners to open up new markets. I take my role as the cabinet minister from Calgary seriously, in supporting veterans as Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, and work every day to make sure that we can continue to build this city.

As always, you can contact my office by email at kent.hehr@parl.gc.ca or by phone at 403-244-1880. My office is located at 950 6 Ave SW and my door is always open to you. You can follow my work in Parliament online and sign up for my e-newsletter at www.KentHehrMP.ca.

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