Public proceedings of the Board
Meeting of the Board of Directors on October 23, 2015
Board members present
John McCamus (Chair), Christa Freiler, Michelle Haigh, John Liston, James McNee, Derry Millar, Michel Robillard, James Yakimovich, Robert W. Ward (CEO/Ex Officio)
Sue McCaffrey, Stephanie Mealing
1. Meeting agenda
The meeting agenda was adopted.
2. Disclosure of conflict of interest
No conflicts of interest were identified.
3. Welcome to new Board members
The Chair extended a warm welcome to two of three recently appointed new members, Christa Freiler and Michel Robillard.
4. President’s report (first instalment)
4.1 Financial position
LAO is in a good financial position overall. Cash flow position is healthy and the organization can meet its financial obligations. Productivity measures relative to costs remain solid in terms of overall improvement.
Every year LAO forecasts a slight shortfall, which is traditionally funded through in-year savings. This year, a minor deficit will likely be reported.
Any further reduction in the Bank of Canada interest rate may adversely affect LAO’s income through lawyers’ trust accounts. Also, LAO may be affected by the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG)’s financial pressure of approximately $80 million, which must be resolved within a two-year period.
Deficit reduction activities are continuing.
4.2 Financial eligibility
The government funding to expand eligibility is continuing. LAO is on track to ensure that the total amount allocated will expand services, and for no requirement to require a portion of the funds to be refunded. Staff were authorized to use discretion liberally to issue certificates in appropriate cases. The increases were quickly moved into the system to benefit clients and to strategically address concerns of private bar service providers.
4.3 Client and Lawyer Service Centre (CLSC)
LAO’s CLSC (toll-free telephone line) receives approximately 300,000 calls per year, many from clients with limited or no mobility, or from people experiencing domestic violence. It operates during business hours. LAO also contracts for the purchase of criminal advice services through the Brydges Hotline, which operates 24/7.
Due to increased financial eligibility, many more clients are calling the CLSC. The increased demand has resulted in lengthened wait times. LAO’s measures to improve provision of telephone services to meet the increased demand has included hiring additional staff on a contract basis. LAO could approach the Law Foundation of Ontario (LFO) for funding. CLSC expansion will go into the business plan’s list of things to consider.
4.4 Bail system improvements
LAO provided written submissions on a strategy for improvements in the bail system in Ontario to one of MAG’s roundtables to address justice issues. Even though the Premier’s office has asked MAG to review the area of bail, and even though more people are incarcerated on remand than those convicted of a crime, MAG is reluctant to discuss potential changes to the bail system. Over time, LAO will take a formal approach on the subject of bail in order to advance the interests of its clients, particularly people who are Aboriginal.
4.5 Other matters
Concerns have been raised about the behaviour of some Children’s Aid Society workers in Aboriginal CFSA matters.
Consultation with MAG and Infrastructure Ontario on the design of a new Toronto courthouse is ongoing. An estimate of LAO’s space requirements has been requested.