We pay for government lawyers, not Harper
When you don\'t pay...
The Canadian government paid out more than half a billion dollars in legal fees last year - $ 500.8 million to be exact. This is real money.
Stephen Harper likes litigation. And when he feels threatened with court action he's just as likely to snap back "bring it on brother."
There's no risk involved. He's not the one paying his lawyers. The taxpayers are the one on the hook for lawyers' bills.
Remember Helena Guergis the minister Harper kicked out of caucus for no good reason.
She found a lawyer and sued Harper and a number of his crew.
Harper found himself a good lawyer and stood up to her. And it was Harper who won in court. The judge said that Harper is a prime minister and has every right to choose who he wants as cabinet minister. . . . or throw out the ones he doesn't want.
But we ended up paying for Harper's lawyers. Guergis paid her own.
Government legal bills have gone through the roof -- half a billion last year. Back when the Liberals were in power, the government's outside legal costs were only $ 90 million a year. We lived in less litigious times. And we didn't have Harper as prime minister.
Yes, there is a Department of Justice and it does handle government cases, and it does provide $ 138 million a year in legal services to other government departments, which reduces fees paid to outside lawyers.
But for specialized cases or when Harper really wants to win a case badly, resorting to outside legal help is not a dumb thing to do.
Some departments use outside lawyers more than others.
The Department of Indian Affairs paid $ 110 million in legal fees to outside lawyers. We all remember the residential schools scandal. Specialized lawyers were needed for that. Hundreds of millions of dollars are involved. The government badly needed specialized representation. The cases are far from over. There are years to go yet.
The Canada Revenue Agency cost us $ 70 million in legal fees last year. That's understandable. The agency pursues thousands of Canadians who try to beat the taxman. And often the agency is being sued by angry taxpayers. So it does need specialized tax lawyers, even foreign lawyers to crack the tax haven accounts.
The RCMP cost us $ 21.5 million in lawyers' fees. A great many RCMP women are suing the force over sexual assault and harassment by male officers.
In many of the cases, the Mounties choose to defend themselves rather than settle out of court. The legal bills can be horrendous.
National Defense uses outside lawyers for some cases -- $ 15 million last year... It is shameful to say, but sometimes veterans injured in Afghanistan have to go to court to get what's owing to them when the military is not willing to pay up without being forced by the courts.
The Harper government could reduce the outrageous outside legal costs by settling more cases out of court, but those who sue the government are not always right, and the public would soon tire of a government that caves in too much every time it is sued.