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Alberta government announces increase of Legal Aid tariff rate

The province announced that starting on January 1, the tariff rate—the rate paid to Legal Aid roster lawyers—would be increasing to $125 per hour, up from the $100 per hour announced earlier in October.

The tariff rate has been one of the causes of job action taken by criminal defence lawyers in the province, which has been escalating since earlier this year. The lawyers had been refusing all but the most serious Legal Aid Alberta cases until October, when they began declining all cases.

The government said that they were able to make a one-year increase in the budget envelope for tariff rates in October due to increased funding from the federal government. They said that the latest rate increase is due to modernization work being undertaken.

“I want to thank all legal aid lawyers for their patience and advocacy as we have worked our way through the review,” said Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro.

“Our commitment to review all aspects of legal aid funding remains in place and will be completed in the new year,” he said.

In a written response by the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association, they said that the increase in rates came as a surprise in both timing and amount.

“The defence lawyers associations received 15 minutes notice that the Government of Alberta would be issuing a press release this morning. We did not have information as to its details until the release was made public,” they wrote.

“Our organizations have been putting unrelenting pressure on the government for this sort of meaningful good faith increase to the tariff since August.”

The association is one of four across the province, representing the majority of criminal defence lawyers.

The CDLA said that members would be meeting on the evening of Dec. 21, to discuss the changes, and that the response to the province would be forthcoming this week from all four associations.