Vote buying? AISH increases historically align with lead-up to provincial elections

Danielle Smith announced a plan to re-index Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), mere months ahead of the provincial election.

Albertans on assured income for the severely handicapped will be seeing about a hundred more dollars on their next AISH payment. The increase comes as part of Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s inflation relief act.

While the province dismisses claims of vote buying, AISH recipients don’t feel the same way, saying the timing of this raise may not be a coincidence.

“I know she said there will be indexing in the future, but she can’t promise that to anyone with certainty because that’ll all depend on who will get elected in May,” said Mary Salvani, an AISH recipient.

Increases to AISH have taken place three times in the past decade. The financial boost comes five months before the spring election.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley indexed AISH in January 2019, again five months prior to an election.

Alison Redford boosted AISH in April of 2012 three weeks before a provincial election.

Related Article: Alberta Premier Danielle Smith moves ahead with $2.4 billion Inflation Relief Act, Alberta ‘sovereignty act’

The province is denying this year’s AISH increase is an attempt at vote buying.

“There either is a cost of living and inflation crisis or there isn’t, and Albertans are certainly feeling it,” said Matt Jones, the minister of affordability and utilities. “And the next question becomes should the government respond to address the real needs of Albertans now or wait for seven months?”

“I think you can say that these things tend to be more appealing in the lead-up to elections,” added Anthony Sayers, a UCalgary political science professor.

WATCH: AISH recipients say Alberta’s re-indexing commitment feels disingenuous

“However, the PCs had a history of being generous with government payments and subsidies. Alberta has spent more per capita in most ways on its citizens than other provinces.”

“Even in the Getty/Klein era of restraint, Alberta generally spent more than other provinces per capita. This populist strategy was part of what kept them in power for 44 years.”

Related Article: Alberta Premier Danielle Smith moves to overhaul social services

“This (UCP) government is much harder to categorize. Kenney has always been a fiscal conservative, so reductions were consistent with this. But his cuts to the overall budget were relatively mild in historical terms.”

“To the degree that Danielle Smith looks like moving the party in a populist direction, then generous payments would be consistent with that approach to government. Essentially, the old PC approach.”

Salvani says the increase to AISH can influence how some might vote but chides any attempt at buying votes.

“They’re hoping that we forgot what they did a couple of years ago, I think,” said Salvani. “I think they kind of underestimate the disabled too. Like they don’t think that we’re smart enough to remember it.”

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