The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 4, October 2010

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Parties Outline Positions in Legal Aid Agreement Renewal

By Peter Michalyshyn, QC, Past President and Michael Penny, QC, Director, Policy and Research, Law Society of Alberta

WITH THE LEGAL AID Alberta governance agreement set to expire in Spring 2011, representatives of the three parties to the agreement have been meeting as a negotiating committee to draft a renewed agreement.

The Governance Agreement is between the Law Society, the Minister of Justice, and, Legal Aid Alberta. It covers:

  • appointments to the board which governs Legal Aid,
  • the obligations of Legal Aid Alberta to deliver legal aid to disadvantaged Albertans through a legal aid plan,
  • the funding and audit of the legal aid plan, and
  • the independence of Legal Aid Alberta and of the legal counsel who provide services under the legal aid plan.

The Governance Agreement also provides for its renewal every five years, and the current agreement will expire on March 31, 2011.

The Law Society, under its enabling legislation, “may enter in to an agreement respecting the operation by Legal Aid Alberta of a plan to provide legal aid to persons in need of it.”

This renewal gives the parties an opportunity to amend and improve the agreement, and to take into account changes which may have occurred in the previous five years. Each provision of the agreement is reviewed by a negotiating committee of representatives of Alberta Justice, Legal Aid Alberta, and the Law Society.

The authors of this article are the Law Society’s representatives on the Governance Agreement negotiating committee. We report back to, and receive instructions as appropriate from the Benchers.

The negotiating committee has met in person six times, as well as participating in an exchange of emails, review of drafts (kudos to whoever invented “track changes”) and has kept its eye on that impending March 31, 2011 deadline.

As this article appears, nothing has yet been formally approved. The parties have, however, extensively outlined their positions, and developed an understanding of each other’s views, and the Law Society’s negotiators are confident of meeting that deadline.

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