Justice Critic Concerned Over Delegation Of Government Authority
NDP Critic Krog Says Accountable Public Servants Should Perform Government Services
A SPECIAL INTERVIEW WITH NDP JUSTICE CRITIC LEONARD KROG
On April 22nd I asked Attorney General Wally Oppal and the Opposition Critic Leonard Krog for interviews. While I haven't received any reply from the Attorney General, The Honourable Leonard Krog, Nanaimo MLA and candidate for the New Democratic Party of British Columbia, agreed to grant me a telephone interview to answer my questions below.
SI: How is the general state of BC’s Justice System? Has it fared well under the Liberals? How does their record compare with that of the last NDP Government?
Krog: Generally poor and it has not fared well under the Liberals. The system is more expensive, less accessible and filled with delays unlike under the NDP.
SI: What would an NDP Government do differently?
Krog: Ensure funding for legal aid and improve the system in consultation with users, the legal community and judiciary.
SI: What would you do to make the legal system more accessible to the people? Are you contemplating any help for self-represented parties?
Krog: The obvious answer is better funding for legal aid, including the provision of duty council for both family and civil matters, which would obviously assist self represented parties.
SI: Does the Legal Profession Act serve public interest as it is? Would you amend the Act? How?
Krog: Generally the public is well served by the Legal Profession Act, however, like all statutes, its effectiveness needs to be reviewed from time to time but I am not looking at any amendments immediately without study and consultation.
SI: As a legal professional yourself how do you propose to deal with the exorbitant cost of legal fees and the billing process, which seems to be out of control? Would you consider some sort of a governmental mechanism that would set the fees, such as in the medical plan, and arbitrate billing issues between lawyers and the public?
Krog: It is very difficult to control legal fees, but the government does have control over court and trial fees, which are exorbitant compared to other Canadian jurisdictions. I would not contemplate a medical services plan approach, but there may be effective methods of arbitrating billing issues between lawyers and the public.
SI: How about amending the Legal Profession Act to allow legal consultants and agents? Wouldn’t that make legal fees more competitive and enable those that cannot afford lawyers to get at least some help?
Krog: Allowing others to practice law who are not lawyers would require some sort of protection for the public and presumably an insurance program to back up that kind of work. It is worth looking at but I cannot make any commitment at this time.
SI: Considering the cost of living, especially in Metro Vancouver, is the present limit of ($1,400) monthly disposable income for Legal Aid reasonable? Would you consider increasing that limit?
Krog: The present limit of monthly disposable income is not reasonable but without knowing the full state of government’s books, I cannot say that the limit would be increased immediately but probably should be increased.
SI: You must have read the report on proposed changes by the BC Justice Review Task Force. Are you on the side of the Law Society or the Task Force on that issue? Or is there a third alternative? How would an NDP Government reform the Justice System?
Krog: The proposed changes do not seem to be an improvement and in fact I think if consensus cannot be reached between the interested parties, it clearly indicates that the proposals are not workable. Where justice reform fits on a government agenda is hard to say as I speak only as an Opposition Critic at the present time.
SI: How would an NDP Government deal with increasing crime in British Columbia ?
Krog: The NDP would hire 168 new police officers and dedicate a special prosecution team for gangs. Additionally of course, government has to address the root causes of crime, poverty, homelessness, drug addiction/mental illness.
SI: Given that (in this writer’s opinion) Taser is an instrument of torture, is it not unconstitutional to allow its use by law enforcement? Would an NDP Government consider prohibiting the use of Tasers altogether?
Krog: The Supreme Court has not ruled that the taser is an instrument of torture but clearly continued use places the public at some risk. I watch with interest the ongoing public inquiry and look forward to Justice Braidwood’s Report.
SI: What do you think of government delegating judicial and law enforcement authority to independent non-governmental corporations, such as the abolition of Consumer Services in 2004 and the creation of privatised authorities? Is this not an adulteration of the justice system? Shouldn’t the government’s duties be performed strictly by the government and publicly accountable civil servants?
Krog: The delegation of this authority creates real problems and concerns for me and it is important to ensure that enforcement and performance of government services be done by accountable public servants.
SI: I know this is not your area of responsibility and you don’t have to answer this question, but it’s a subject that concerns many British Columbians. What would an NDP Government do for small business? Will they fare any better under your government?
Krog: The government would give BC Small Business a tax holiday while at the same time increase the minimum wage. It is small business that needs government support and is our real job generator.
SI: What do you think of Citizen-Powered News Media?
Krog: I think the more media we have the better democracy works.