Public proceedings of the Board

Meeting of the Board of Directors on June 20, 2013


Board members present

John McCamus (Chair); Aly Alibhai; Nancy Cooper; John Liston; James McNee; Derry Millar; James Yakimovich; Robert W. Ward (CEO/Ex Officio)


Sue McCaffrey

1. Meeting agenda

The meeting agenda was adopted.

2. Disclosure of conflict of interest

No conflicts of interest were identified.

3. Chair’s report

3.1 Delivery of clinic law services

The Chair, joined by the President and CEO, met with the Minister of the Attorney General and his staff to discuss LAO’s strategic plan for the delivery of clinic law services. No objections to the plan were raised.

The Chair met with Ontario’s law deans. They were interested in how LAO’s strategic plan for clinics will affect Student Legal Aid Services Societies (SLASS). The Chair suggested that although much of the Plan is not directly relevant to the operations of the SLASS, they could adopt the spirit of innovation and experimentation set out in the plan. The discussion was well received.

3.2 Advisory committees

Seven Board advisory committees have met recently. The Chair commended the work of Heather Morgan, Nye Thomas and Rod Strain in preparing materials and in reaching out to new advisory committee members. He reported that the discussions at the advisory committee meetings have been of very high quality, interesting and very helpful.

3.3 Board appointments

The Chair reported on the efforts he has undertaken with respect to appointments to the Board for the two vacant positions.

3.4 Meetings

The Chair, joined by the President and CEO, met with a Premier’s Office Policy Adviser, and discussed Board appointments, the lack of an integrated vision for the justice sector and LAO’s progress on its strategic plan. The Policy Adviser was enthusiastic about the need to address financial eligibility. LAO had previously briefed the current Premier on these matters.

The Chair also attended some swearings-in of judges and a variety of meetings, most notably a meeting he had attended, with the approval of the Attorney General, of the International Legal Aid Group (ILAG) in The Hague on “Legal Aid in Difficult Times.” Common issues among the attendees included hotline services, unbundled services, family law challenges, financial constraints and the use of technology in service provision. Board members will be able to access the materials through a link to the ILAG website.

3.4 Expenses

The Chair incurred expenses of $441.89, for travel to Fredericton for an Association of Legal Aid Plans meeting. He has received a credit for this amount from Air Canada, as he is unable to attend due to a conflict in his schedule.

3.5 Decision

The Board received the Chair’s Report.

4. President and CEO’S Report

The President and CEO highlighted the following:

4.1 Meetings

The President attended the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Bar Association, which focused on access to justice. Supreme Court of Canada Justice Cromwell is taking the initiative to raise this issue’s profile. While at the meeting, the President met with the staff of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario and representatives of MAG.

The President attended a meeting of the Lanark County Law Association in Pembroke to present LAO’s strategic plan to an audience that did not know much about today’s legal aid. He suggested that the onus is on LAO to engage in more effective communications with stakeholder groups such as this. The association gave him a gift, but he returned it, in compliance with public sector conflict of interest principles.

4.2 Tribute to Chris Bentley

The President attended a tribute to former Attorney General Chris Bentley, in London. Bentley spoke very positively about legal aid, and the increase in funding to LAO.

4.3 Recent hires

Kathleen Murphy, the former Chief of Staff to Bentley, has joined LAO as a senior policy adviser.

Aileen Page has joined LAO as part-time counsel for General Counsel’s Office.

4.4 Budget and certificate update

The President reviewed the status of the budget, including certificate numbers, which are, overall, below estimated amounts.

4.5 Meeting with Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) staff

The President met with MAG staff to discuss clinic matters, including:

  • the fact that, in order to allow time for clinic reforms and avoid a $5M cut to clinic budgets, LAO had borrowed from its Law Foundation revenues
  • LAO’s allocation of $30M in new one-time funding over three years into family (80 per cent) and clinic law and SLASS services (20 per cent)—which aligns with LAO’s funding structure. The ministry has approved the allocation of the new funding to family law services, hubs, clinics, the mental health strategy, the Aboriginal justice strategy and clinic modernization
  • a $3.5M reduction in LAO’s base funding, which would result in a reduction of the clinic budget by $1M; the ministry did raise the possibility that it would revise its reduction of LAO’s funding from $3.5M to $2.5M to help LAO maintain the clinic budget (which would still mean a cut of $2.5M to all other portions of LAO’s budget)
  • The 20 per cent allocation from the government’s new funding of $30 million means that clinics will, overall, see an increase in funding.

The Board discussed the potential savings to be achieved through the clinics’ administrative savings plans, and engaged in a preliminary discussion of the implications of the suggested change to the transfer payment reduction. The Board agreed to return to this discussion when it reconvened in the morning.

4.6 Community legal clinics

A pay equity issue has emerged at the West Toronto clinic, and the clinic is in the process of addressing this issue.

4.7 Performance measures

The President and CEO reviewed the Corporate Services Performance Measures report and the quarterly Workforce Report. New staffing classifications will improve the management to staff ratio, which currently stands at 1:8.9, because LAO will no longer need to use a management classification to compensate at an appropriate level for staff in specialized roles.

4.8 Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA)

In a meeting with Anthony Moustacalis, the CLA and LAO shared their similar views on the issues of financial eligibility and possible benefits for the certificate bar.

4.9 Expanded senior management committee

LAO’s managers remain positive and have taken responsibility for LAO’s initiatives.

4.10 Clinic modernization

The clinics’ response to LAO’s strategic plan for clinic law services included comments the ACLCO made on the CBC, and that Professor Mary Jane Mossman made at the ACLCO annual general meeting.

Early adopters of clinic transformation include many Toronto clinics and many specialty clinics have consolidated back office functions.

4.11 Decision

A motion to receive the President and CEO’s report was deferred to the meeting of the Board on June 21, 2013.