Court Funding: Do You Know the Numbers?

“[T]he Courts Administration budget represents a mere 0.54% of the total Ontario Government budget for the year, a percentage which has remained relatively constant for the past number of years.” – Ontario Civil Justice Review, 1996

Do you know how much the Ontario government spends on the justice system a year? Do you know precisely how it is allocated? Could you state with confidence how much of it goes to: judges’ salaries, office space, assistants, maintaining courthouses, registrars, court reporters, clerks, librarians, legal counsel, and so on? Could you state with confidence how much is budgeted for the different regions within Ontario?

We should be able to type into Google keywords and be taken directly to a clear breakdown of the province’s budget for the courts. We should be able to know exactly how much is spent, where precisely it goes, and when the funds come into effect. The justice system is indispensable to a functioning democracy.

I suspect that times remain similar to 1996, where only half of a percent of the total Ontario government’s yearly budget is spent on the administration of the courts. However, finding a detailed account remains difficult, if not impossible, even though we are entitled to know precisely how funds are divided. The 2014-2015 Ministry Results-Based Plan is insufficiently detailed. The operating and capital summary provides figures for things like “Court Services” and “Legal Services” and merely states that the overall Ministry Total Operating and Capital Assets is $267,266,829. It does not explain with precision where monies are being allocated.

How is it okay that the latest article critically analyzing spending on the court system on the Ministry of Attorney General’s website is from 1996? 20 years ago. We deserve better. We deserve full and detailed disclosure on the Court Administration budget.

Further, how is it okay that the provincial government allocates about half of a percent of its total yearly budget to the administration of the courts, a pillar of our democracy?

Comments

  1. A bit more detail is available in the Public Accounts for 2014-15 – see pages 2-44 through 2-47 for Courts Services.

    For example, it says this:

    Administration of Justice (Item 1)
    Salaries and wages ………………………………………. 158,081,718
    Employee benefits ………………………………………… 26,713,520
    Transportation and communication ………………….8,881,024
    Services ……………………………………………………….. 60,791,073
    Supplies and equipment ………………………………….. 6,538,180
    ——————-
    Subtotal 261,005,515
    ——————-
    Judicial Services (Item 2)
    Salaries and wages ………………………………………. 136,702,041
    Employee benefits ………………………………………… 10,092,180
    Transportation and communication …………………. 2,874,364
    Services ……………………………………………………….. 14,297,761
    Supplies and equipment …………………………………….. 670,964
    Transfer payments
    Grants – National Judicial Institute/Ontario
    Conference of Judges ………………………………………… 231,951
    ——————
    Subtotal 164,869,261
    ——————

    Not quite the detail that this post calls for, but a bit more detailed than the business plan.

    One could figure out from the Public Accounts what percentage of total government spending went to the courts. I have not taken the time to do that.

  2. Total estimated ON revenue for 2015 = $118,546,418,009

    Total estimated operating expense for court services program = $436,588,004

    That’s 0.368% of the overall Ontario budget.

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