Email identified in February 18, 2010 Toronto Star article

Posted on: Thursday, February 18, 2010

From: Vice President, Policy and Research

To: Executive Directors, Community Legal Clinics

I am writing regarding the CRO budget.

As you know, LAO’s financial situation has changed significantly over the past two years as a result of a dramatic decline in Law Foundation of Ontario revenues. This has shifted LAO’s financial position from a surplus of $29.8 million in 2007/08 to a deficit of $19.1 million for 2008/09 and a projected deficit of $46.7 million for 2009/10.

Further, the terms of the provincial government's recently-announced, multi-year $150 million investment in the legal aid system requires that it be earmarked for enhancements to client services and not be applied to LAO's revenue shortfall.

As a responsible public agency, LAO must manage its existing programs within the constraints of our current budget, which includes this dramatically decreased Law Foundation funding and the resulting uncertainty that it brings. In order to do so, LAO has made many difficult decisions regarding its budget. Decisions have been made carefully, so as not to affect direct client services wherever possible. All budget reductions have been approved by the LAO Board.

In that context, I am writing to advise that the CRO's budget is being reduced as part of the necessary reductions in the overall expenses associated with Provincial Office operations. The reductions are as follows:

  • The two Individual File Assistance lawyer positions at the CRO (which are currently vacant) will be not be filled.
  • The Court Litigation Support Service (CLSS) will be affected – there will no longer be a Litigation Assistant, and the CLSS Barrister will begin working part-time as of mid-April 2010.
  • LAO is no longer able to assist the editorial board, and cover the cost, of publishing the Journal of Law and Social Policy (JLSP).  We will attempt to find alternative support for the JLSP so that it can continue as a publication elsewhere.

The CRO is in the process of re-assessing/restructuring its services and resources in light of these changes, and will notify the clinics of the results of this process as soon as it is able to.

We understand, of course, that any budget reductions are cause for concern. Unfortunately, LAO is confronted with the reality of substantially reduced resources and the need to find efficiencies and savings in all areas of our administrative systems. LAO has made many difficult decisions about its budget that go beyond the reductions to the CRO budget, implementing reductions of administration costs by $4.37 million. 

These changes may be re-evaluated in the future as increases to LAO’s Law Foundation revenues allow. At that time the emphasis would be on expenditures that are elastic and can be reduced again if the situation demands it. LAO cannot continue to be dependent on a variable source of revenue, such as Law Foundation funding, to pay core expenses.

The Board and senior management of LAO support and appreciate the work that is undertaken in the CRO and the benefits of its services for clinics and our mutual clients. Despite the necessary reductions to the CRO budget, the investment made by LAO in the CRO remains substantial: $1.7 M for 2010-2011. I am confident that, with these resources, the CRO can continue its excellent work in support of clinics and our clients.  

Vice President, Policy and Research