Economist Don Drummond has released his report on the state of Ontario’s finances this week, making several key recommendations to Ontario’s justice system in an effort to protect the cash-strapped province from a potential rise to $411 billion in predicted debt over the next several years.
1. Improving evidence-based data collection to achieve better outcomes in justice programs.
2. Increasing the use of the Justice On Target program to assist with the reduction of custody remand, and implement evidence-based approaches to increase efficiency in the field of family law and family courts.
3. Expanding diversion programs for low-risk, non-violent offenders with mental illness as an alternative to incarceration.
4. Reviewing the core responsibilities of police to eliminate their use in non-core duties. This review would include an examination of alternative models of police service delivery. Criteria for the review would include determining the relative costs of the various security providers and an evaluation of their respective comparative advantages.
5. Using alternative service delivery for non-core services within correctional facilities, where feasible.
6. Continuing the process of clustering adjudicative tribunals across the Ontario Public Service.
7. Examining integration opportunities and consolidate where possible public safety training in policing, fire services and correctional services, which are currently delivered individually through their respective colleges.
8. Having the justice sector continue to work with Infrastructure Ontario to use alternative financing and procurement to assist in replenishing its capital infrastructure.
9. Improving co-ordination between federal and provincial governments in areas such as justice policy and legislation, law enforcement and correctional services.
10. Negotiating the transfer of responsibility for incarceration for sentences longer than six months to the federal government.
If the recommendations are not implemented, Ontarians could expect to see further deterioration of its courthouses and facilities. Courthouses will also be plagued by an increasing workload. Drummond estimates the federal omnibus crime bill will require an additional $22 million per year in additional costs.
“Moving forward, the justice sector faces fiscal challenges that will need to be addressed to bend down the cost curve for justice services,” the report says. “Key challenges facing the sector include compensation, increasing remand costs, infrastructure costs, the impact of federal legislation and greater expectations from the public for justice-related services.”
According to the report, Ontario is grappling not only with an increasingly strained court system but also overcrowded provincial jails, as well as an increase in family court matters.
“The public expects more from its justice system than it previously did...The justice sector will need to transform its service delivery and find efficiencies while ensuring public confidence.” Drummond said in the report. “Ontario’s finances do not yet constitute a crisis, and with early strong action a crisis can be averted.”
To view the complete report, visit the Ontario Ministry of Finance's web site.