FOLA's questions for provincial election candidates
By Jennifer Pritchett, Associate Editor
The Federation of Ontario Law Associations (FOLA) is urging lawyers across Ontario to get involved in the upcoming provincial election and to ask the local candidates some pointed questions about Ontario’s justice system.
“We have urged our members to get involved in the provincial election campaign by developing relationships with local candidates. This is part of that effort,” FOLA executive director, Michael Ras, tells AdvocateDaily.com.
Ras says it’s important for FOLA members to build rapport with local representatives to ensure that justice issues — a key part of the mandate and responsibility of any provincial government — are dealt with and that when it comes time to set budgets, priorities and policy, the justice system is given its proper due.
“Basically, we appreciate that justice issues are not part of the current political dialogue in Ontario. Health care, education, transit, etc. are getting more attention, but the justice system is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise and its efficient and effective operation is key to the province,” he says.
“It cannot be ignored and lawyers have a responsibility to raise issues and ensure that the justice system is part of the conversation before, during and after elections.”
FOLA is urging lawyers to ask their candidates five questions that reflect some of the practising bar’s priorities.
Here are the questions:
- Do you believe a properly funded legal aid system is an essential public service? What would you do to improve it?
- What will you and your party do to ensure that justice is always handled swiftly and fairly? In light of the Jordan decision, how can we ensure that cases are dealt with quickly and that everyone has access to justice?
- Across Ontario, there are many courthouses and other justice system-related infrastructure that are old and inadequate. Will you and your party commit to investments where they are needed to ensure our justice system is properly resourced?
- Technology can enhance the efficiency of the justice system, but there are many barriers to its adoption in our courts. Steps have been taken in recent years to invest more, but continued investment is needed. Will you commit to ongoing investment in technology?
- Our family law system is particularly stretched and too costly for many. One relatively easy initiative to make our family law system more efficient is unified family court. Will you commit to working with the federal government to unify the Ontario Court of Justice (provincial) and the Superior Court of Justice (federal) for family courts in every judicial district in Ontario?
Ras explains that FOLA’s primary mission is to be an advocate for the practising bar.
“When opportunities like a provincial election come around, it is important for us to be leveraging every advocacy tool we have at our disposal,” he says.
“FOLA believes the network of practising lawyers in every corner and community of the province is a tremendous tool that just needs to be activated. This work is best done at the grassroots/local level because, as former United States House Speaker Tip O’Neil was famous for saying ‘all politics is local.’
“We encourage local associations and any lawyer who is interested in the administration of justice to get involved in this campaign and ask questions at all candidates meetings, to host meetings of the candidates, to host a tour of the courthouse — do whatever they can to get justice issues on the agenda.”