Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

So, what did Travis Toews actually say about Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped when he said whatever he said to a Grande Prairie local news website one week ago today?

According to the first report on, the finance minister, who is also MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti, said that the possible end to AISH benefits has been brought to the table, though nothing has yet been set in stone.

Alberta Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney (Photo: Twitter).

Unsurprisingly, that phrase, which was not in quotation marks in the story, sparked considerable outrage and concern as soon as a link to the report began circulating on social media.

Subsequently, the news site deleted the line from the story, substituting it with a note that the top that said: “The original version of this story included a misquoted statement about AISH from MLA Toews. We apologize for the error and the confusion. We have reached out to MLA Toews to clarify the matter.”

Not to be over-critical of a local news organization – the flaws in the story, including the omission of the circumstances in which Mr. Toews made his remark, are typical of news media in general nowadays – this clarification nevertheless does little to clarify and plenty to confuse.

If Mr. Toews was misquoted, why wasn’t the original statement in quotes? If the reporter’s paraphrase of whatever the minister said was in error, why hasn’t either the minister or the website clarified what he said? And if MyGrandePrairieNow felt the need to reach out to the local MLA to explain what he meant, where’s the explanation?

It seems likely the idea of putting an end to AISH benefits has indeed been brought to the table, whether or not Mr. Toews said anything about it to MyGrandePrairieNow.

After all, in late 2019, the Kenney Government de-indexed AISH payments, meaning they would no longer rise with inflation.

Last month, on Sept. 11, the normally pro-UCP Calgary Herald reported there is a plan within the United Conservative Party Government to shrink AISH payments. Yes, the Herald quoted an unnamed government official saying, “there is a push to potentially make some cuts,” and “they’re not going to be that minor in nature.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Cutting monthly payments to the approximately 70,000 Albertans with disabilities who rely AISH for their basic needs was described by one person interviewed for the story as “absolutely inhumane,” a view many Albertans apparently shared. The report sparked an uproar that caused the government to back off a little.

A couple of days later, Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney responded to the anger by announcing there would be no AISH cuts after all.

Yet two days after that, Premier Jason Kenney told reporters instead of cutting benefits for all AISH recipients, the government would think about cutting some recipients off AISH entirely.

“The population of people qualifying has been growing far, far faster than the overall population,” the premier asserted, so his government would be looking at “what are the criteria, how do we define severely handicapped in this day and age?”

Taken together, all this could suggest last Monday’s MyGrandePrairieNow story was closer to the truth than the minister and local MLA wished to see in print before the UCP’s issues managers have a chance to manage our perceptions of the government’s plans.

It is entirely reasonable to believe that, given what we do know, the Kenney Government does intend to cut the money it spends supporting Alberta’s most vulnerable citizens – who are now living on just $1,685 a month.

Mr. Toews could clear the air by simply stating plainly what it is the government plans to do, or, if it hasn’t made up its mind, what the options are it’s considering.

One painless solution might be a modest corporate tax increase, since there’s plenty of evidence higher taxes don’t kill jobs and also lots that the UCP’s corporate tax cuts sure haven’t created any, and may even be financing corporate automation and relocation strategies that are making unemployment in Alberta even more severe.

Don’t expect anything like that to happen, though, while there are still people living on $20,220 a year who can be squeezed a little more.

Say hello to Lunchbox O’Toolez!

Back in the day, Britain’s Private Eye Magazine, a scurrilous political and media gossip sheet printed fortnightly on greasy newsprint and read widely among the U.K.’s chattering classes, featured a regular column insulting classical musicians in general and the London Symphony Orchestra in particular by one Lunchtime O’Boulez.

The much-derided Poster Boy/Handyman meme (Image: Twitter).

For some reason this name from your blogger’s adolescent reading habits resurfaced last week with the publication of those lame Conservative Party of Canada social media memes introducing the party’s new leader, Erin O’Toole.

“Canada doesn’t need a poster boy,” the memes averred beside an unflatteringly pixilated image of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. No, it continued, “Canada needs a handyman.” The latter statement was paired with a picture of a smiling Mr. O’Toole.

The response on social media, to say the least, was derisive, with many suggestions the Conservative strategic braintrust had best try again. (To be fair, this is preferable to Mr. O’Toole’s dogwhistly campaign slogan, “Take back Canada!”)

As soon as I saw the meme, though, I thought: “Lunchbox OToolez!”

And now, I’m afraid, that is how I will always think of Mr. O’Toole, at least until he goes down the unhappy trail broken by Andrew Scheer, and Jason Kenney finally gets his chance to return to his rightful place in Ottawa.

Join the Conversation


  1. You can always count on the CONs to shoot themselves in the face at the first opportunity.

    Declaring that the Tool is a handyman is pretty odd, and I suppose a PR stunt as low-brow as this will help the CONs secure the calloused hands vote. But it looks like they haven’t come up with a better bag of tricks that the one’s that declared Andrew Sneer a “prime minister in waiting”. Apart from the incident where the CPC stabbed Sneer in the back over that sweetheart deal he scored from Steve-O Harpo — they had to punish Sneer for not beating PMJT somehow. And the CPC has never been known for being charitable even to those in their own ranks, so it was par for the course.

    As for the UCP’s effort to make Alberta Dickensian again, abolish AISH could prove to be the ticket. In one fell swoop, tens of thousands of Albertans will be thrown under the UCP bus, because they didn’t give their votes to the Angry Midget. Of course, there’s the much touted universal income strategy that the Liberals have been tooling over, which could be a replacement. It’s just like the UCP to toss everyone onto the federal rolls, but then blame the Liberals for wrecking Alberta. It seems that Ottawa has been pushing billions into Alberta while the UCP has been pulling billions out — and Alberta voted against the Liberals and Trudeau?

    The evidence continues to pile on that Albertans must be the stupidest people alive. They have no idea how to reward those who assist, or punish those who harm them.

  2. Well I suspect Mr. Toews or more likely Boss Kenney have’t quite figured out how to get rid of AISH yet after their initially attempts failed. I bet plan B or whatever they might call it remains a work in progress they would really like to keep a secret until they are ready to pounce and attack AISH again. Therefore, I doubt there will be any clarification by Mr. Toews, although I also doubt this stealth tactic will help them much.

    Yes, Mr. Lunchbox O’Toole seems to be trying hard to be all things to everyone – sympathetic to social conservatives, socially progressive on the outside … What could possibly go wrong with this strategy, other than confusing and terribly disappointing everyone in the end?

    I don’t think the Conservative Party will allow him to play footsie with Liberalism for very long. After all, if they really wanted that approach, they would have chosen his opponent MacKay, instead.

    1. Somewhere in Twitterverse, someone made a comment about Canada needing a handyman “Last time the conservatives had a handy man, he was caught peeing in the coffee cup…..”

  3. Don’t tell me that EoT is just another placeholder for Wreck-It Ralph, who will destroy Canada like he has destroyed Alberta! Don’t tell me that!

    I was hoping all this could be settled in the boxing ring, once and for all.

  4. “‘Canada needs a handyman.’ The latter statement was paired with a picture of a smiling Mr.O’Toole.”
    Merriam-Webster defines “handyman”
    1 : a person who does odd jobs.
    2 : one competent in a variety of small skills or ingenious in repair or maintenance work.
    Maybe the poobahs in the Conservative party followed up an employment ad requiring knowledge of unplugging parliamentary toilets or shoring up seats of their overweight MPs in the House of Commons.

    1. Are you implying that at the dawn of the most complex reformation of the world’s geo-political and economic structure that something beyond the ability to fix a screen door is needed to sit at the head of Canada’s legislative body? That’s just more Laurentian elitism standing in the way of me getting my hands on a new Honda side-by-side.

  5. Yet another lead-lined trial balloon from the UCP. The Blue Meanie-in-Chief seems determined to rid Oilberduh of those pestiferous peons who can’t even work for the oilpatch. Wouldn’t it be easier to channel Ralph Klein’s Old Tories and just give them bus tickets to the Left Coast?

  6. Im pretty sure I am repeating myself, but where do social payments come from? They come from the productivity of the Albertan tax payers and industry.

    This is worth noting over and over again as you cant vote yourself an increase in pay. Also, you dont suddenly have more money you can dispense from giving government workers a pay raise.

    You need to expand the private sector to afford nice entitlement packages.

    And thats exactly what the UCP is tying to do.

    The UCP main goal is to afford nice entitlement packages. You heard it here first.

    1. Bret Larson: The only nice entitlement packages the UCP are giving are to their friends. The UCP aren’t helping Albertans in any way, shape, or form. It is absolutely callous to treat the most vulnerable in society with shame. The UCP haven’t been good fiscal stewards, and in typical fashion in this province, the most destitute have to pay the price for the big financial blunders of the Conservatives. The UCP do not have to live for over 30 days on an income that is well below the poverty line. Neither do their numerous well paid friends, who are paid good salaries for redundant positions. Legitimate Conservative governments in Alberta ended when Alberta PC premier Peter Lougheed left politics in 1985.

    2. A vague awareness of the redundant nature of one’s emissions of the glib and puerile tenets of Kon economic “thought” never impedes a Kon’s compulsion to proselytize.

    1. JSS: The UCP won the last provincial election in a sketchy manner. The UCP will try and get back into power by very suspicious means. However, the UCP’s popularity is slipping, due to their very poor policies. I would not count on the UCP having a second term.

  7. the Kenney/UCP attitude towards the AISH program and it’s beneficiaries clearly demonstrates the moral bankruptcy of this disgusting and clueless bunch of free market true believers,

    thinking you can count on it being Kenney in drivers seat on this issue as he flails away because of the disastrous outcomes of his approach and policies. The rest i’m sure, are pretty much his sock puppets a la hair harper although Toews seems like he’d be in there like dirty shirt.

    guess people with disabilities, particularly mental disabilities should just join the homeless population and definitely no room to spare in the budget for those still in the program to buy cheezies

    Conservatives really are a mean spirited, morally repugnant and soulless lot

    would be curious to know how many of the UCP MLA’s consider themselves fine, upstanding, church going “christians”

  8. I must thank you for yet another great blog. You really know what is going on. The subject of AISH is something that has been an issue with the Alberta PCs, and presently with the UCP. Remember when Ralph Klein and his party members were in front of the TV cameras, and were ridiculing the handicapped. This was appalling and cold hearted. With this there also was a fiasco, that reached around $100 million. Ralph Klein’s political career came to an end, because of his callous demeanor towards the handicapped. The UCP are doing what Ralph Klein was doing, by treating the less fortunate in Alberta with disregard. The UCP, like Ralph Klein, have to punish someone for their own inability to manage Alberta’s money. The Wildrose/Reform element has also reared its ugly head with this. They also believe it’s not the government’s responsibility to help the less fortunate. In Alberta, there are also (not surprising) staunch Conservative supporters who claim they know people on AISH who shouldn’t be on it. They are not medical experts, and they cannot back up their claims. Getting on AISH isn’t easy, as AISH recipients have said. There have been people who said it took two or three times before they finally were accepted for AISH. The stringent rules came from the Alberta PCs. I also would like to point out the paltry amount that was given for AISH. Given that we see a scarcity of affordable housing in Alberta, and rents are not cheap, how can someone live off of $1688 per month? Alone, a one bedroom apartment is at least $900. Groceries are also not cheap, and are at least $400 per month to $450 per month. The cost of power is at least $60 per month, or more. The cost of phone, internet, and cable, can be $150 per month to $200 per month. Libraries have free internet, but are not open 24/7. A phone is still needed for appointment bookings, and other things. With the UCP de-indexing AISH to the rate of inflation, and changing the payment dates to the first of every month, this has already left AISH recipients hurting. If the UCP makes more cuts to AISH, or gets rid of it completely, homelessness in Alberta will spike. There will likely (God forbid) people taking their lives. Even the most die hard, fanatical UCP supporters will have a hard time trying to justify this. One other stupid move, among many, that ties in with this. The UCP has given numerous friends of theirs redundant positions, which have a bottom pay of at least $100,000 per year, to around $250,000 per year. Yet, AISH recipients are forced to do with less. A society is judged on how it treats the least of its members. The UCP gets a failing grade.

  9. Why do the Cons insist in always attacking the most vulnerable people? Okay I actually know the answer. It is because the big money that bankrolls them insists on being the only ones that government support. Neoliberalism/neoconservatism pushes this attack. They don’t make political donations. They make investments and want a return on that investment. And they don’t want any competition for government aid.

    The UCP are only too happy to oblige.

    This might be a trial balloon to see how far they can go.

  10. There are eleven “Covid” stories on the CBC Calgary page currently, out of the sixteen links displayed. Three of the other stories are wedge issue dog-whistles related to the Orange Cretin and abortion. Nothing about AISH.
    The case rates for severe disease, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths with Covid are all lower than those seen in most seasonal influenza epidemics in Alberta in the last ten years. The positive test rate in Alberta has been below 2% since May 10th. The excess mortality observed in Alberta during the pandemic was apparent before the pandemic started, with the highest daily death total in Alberta on March 28, when there were a total of two Covid deaths in the province.
    Not only has the most comprehensive campaign of socio-economic destabilization since the Second World War been accepted by the population with no scientific evidence to justify it, no effort whatsoever is being made to determine just why the frail and elderly began to die at an elevated rate long before the pandemic flourished.
    “From the end of February to the end of May 2020, there were 639 more deaths in the province than the highest number recorded in Alberta in the past five years, according to new data from Statistics Canada.
    However, provincial public health authorities only reported 146 deaths from the novel coronavirus in the same timespan, about a quarter of the entire excess mortalities.
    The number of excess deaths in Alberta peaked in the week ending March 28, when 563 Albertans died, 80 more than the previous highest total.”
    SARS CoV-2 is simply not a pathogen that can produce the spread and severity of disease claimed as the rationale for the hysteria campaign. I remain astounded that people are not demanding a scientific projection of the risk that replaces the absurd official projections that we would see 800 000 infections with 400 to 3100 deaths by mid-May in Alberta.
    There is no other political issue in this province that compares to the magnitude of the socio-economic disruptions induced and/or disguised by Covid hysteria.
    “Alberta has modelled two core scenarios – Probable and Elevated.
    Probable Scenario
    Given our early and aggressive interventions and contact tracing to limit spread, this is expected to be the most likely scenario for Alberta.
    Mid-May peak
    800,000 total infections
    From 400 to 3,100 total deaths
    Elevated Scenario
    Planning for this scenario is prudent and responsible given the catastrophic impacts should the health system become overwhelmed.
    Early May peak
    1,060,000 total infections
    From 500 to 6,600 total deaths
    Extreme Scenario
    This scenario shows what would have happened if Alberta did not undertake early and aggressive interventions and contact tracing to limit spread.
    Mid-April peak
    1,600,000 total infections peak in
    From 16,000 to 32,000 total deaths”
    Actual “cases” on May 31 was 5876. There were a total of 25 people in hospital with 6 in ICU on that date, according to Alberta Health, and a total of 143 deaths, ever, according to CBC.
    I am too young to have observed war hysteria in Vancouver or Halifax but I cannot imagine a more destructive example of fear-mongering by the state and compliant media than to continue to peddle the Covid terror narrative.
    The prevailing economic and geopolitical conditions preceded the launch of Covid, which has significantly accelerated the pace at which these conditions develop, but as long as the fear campaign remains a subject of incontestible faith, we can all look forward to the ongoing obliteration of life as we knew it for the last seventy-five years, and it’s replacement with something much nastier for the overwhelming majority of us.

  11. Recently I had a discussion about the real difference between a “handy man” and a ‘craftsperson’. ‘Handy men’ know a little about several things. Craftspersons know a lot about something very important, plus a little about several other things. Much rather have a craftperson fix my car, drywall my basement, clean my furnace than the friendly neighbourhood ‘handy man’ who does not have the knowledge, experience, or equipment to do things correctly the first time. I say this as a former ‘handy man’ who did all sorts of odd jobs for myself and family, but who actually did have a craft as well. My jobs around houses, own and others, were not top notch quality endeavours even if cheaper. ‘Handy man’ culture is great, as long as we recognize that their work is not top of the heap. Now translate this to politics, or health care, or education, or even the law. I do not look for a ‘leader’ who does it all, I look for a competent team with ‘craftpersons’ who can think and act collegially. Too much to hope for??

  12. I would agree with Kenny and say that Aish benefits should end and people can work instead on relying on the government as the government will stop all the benefits for Aish

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