Legal Aid wins funding boost in Alberta budget

Man who killed Edmonton senior handed life sentence

Criminal lawyers in Alberta are celebrating a boost in funding to the province's beleaguered legal aid services.

"We're all pleasantly surprised that the government has shown such a commitment," Kelly Dawson, president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, said Monday.

In last week's budget the province committed $81 million to legal aid for the upcoming year.

Last year Legal Aid Alberta ate up its $68 million in government funding long before the year was out, forcing the government to kick in an additional $9 million.

Dawson said he had not known if the province would increase the annual budget.

"The fear was they were not going to carry forward that increase, which they did in full," Dawson said. "In addition they added $3.5 million which gives legal aid some capacity to handle the increased volume."

The funding increase comes after the province dedicated more money towards hiring 50 new Crown prosecutors and 30 support staff earlier this month.

"If the Crown prosecutions had got that significant boost to their underfunding situation and legal aid had received nothing, we would have cemented an imbalance that already exists," Dawson said.

Legal Aid Alberta helps people without means navigate through the justice system to resolve their legal issues.