Rajan Sawhney
Minister of Transportation of Alberta
Assumed office
July 8, 2021
PremierJason Kenney
Preceded byRic McIver
Minister of Community and Social Services of Alberta
In office
April 30, 2019 – July 8, 2021
PremierJason Kenney
Preceded byIrfan Sabir
Succeeded byJason Luan
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for Calgary-North East
Assumed office
April 16, 2019
Preceded bynew district
Personal details
Born1970 or 1971 (age 51–52)[1]
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Political partyUnited Conservative Party

Rajan Sawhney is a Canadian politician who was elected in the 2019 Alberta general election to represent the electoral district of Calgary-North East in the 30th Alberta Legislature.[2][3] She is a member of the United Conservative Party. On April 30, 2019, she was appointed to be the Minister of Community & Social Services in the Executive Council of Alberta. On July 8, 2021, she was shuffled into the Minister of Transportation.

Electoral history

2019 Alberta general election: Calgary-North East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
United Conservative Rajan Sawhney 8,376 49.3% -3.14
New Democratic Gurbachan Brar 6,046 35.6% -2.75
Alberta Party Nate Pike 1,791 10.6% -
Liberal Gul Khan 761 4.5% -3.32
Total valid votes 16,974
Rejected, spoiled, and declined 105
Registered electors 28,553
Turnout 59.7%
Alberta provincial government of Jason Kenney Cabinet post (1) Predecessor Office Successor Irfan Sabir Minister of Community & Social ServicesApril 30, 2019– Incumbent

Minister of CSS (2019-)

Privatization of 24-hour Government Direct Operations

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, on June 10, 2020, it was announced to families and care providers at these 24-hour Direct Operations programs—Residential Support Services (RSS) for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) in Edmonton, Family Support for Children with Disabilities (FSCD) in Edmonton, and Graduated Supports Services (GSS) for PDD in Calgary—that CSS was exploring alternative service delivery models, transitioning from Government Direct Operations to Contracted Service Providers.[4][5] This included Scenic Bow Place, with its Scenic Bow group homes, included GSS assisted-living facility—a long-term residence for approximately 200 developmentally challenged residents, with a staff of 300 staff.[6][4] According to a July 25, 2020 Calgary Herald article, PDD guardians and care givers attempted to submit a petition signed by 3,000 to Sawhney's Calgary office regarding privatization fears.[6] According to a July 2020 CSS statement, the alternative service affects how services are delivered, not who will pay for them. The government will continue to pay for them but they will be contracted to "community-based organizations" that already provide 99% of residential and personal care services in Alberta.[6] On July 17, 2020, CSS published a Request for Information (RFI) what is "currently available in the marketplace" as "alternative delivery model" for 24-hour Direct Operations programs in the Calgary and Edmonton regions, which could include "transitioning of residential and direct client services to contracted service providers".[5] If all the facilities concerned are privatized, the government will save e C$3.48 million.

In 2019, the UCP government conducted several forums on public policies relevant to persons with developmental disabilities. The New Democratic Party had raised concerns about "underfunding, low staff pay and shortages of training and affordable housing."[6]

Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped

Main article: Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped

Sawhney was Minister of Community and Social Services (CSS) when the unpopular October 24, 2019 provincial budget decision to de-index the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) benefit from the Consumer Price Index, was announced. The UCP policy means that the maximum AISH rate for a single person will remain at C$1,685 per month and will not increase with the inflationary cost of living until at least 2023.[7] The budget decision reverts the 2018 Bill 26: An Act to Combat Poverty and Fight for Albertans with Disabilities, enacted by the previous provincial New Democratic Party government.[8] The budget included both generous decrease in corporate tax rates and deep cuts to health and education program budgets as part of the UCP 2019 election campaign commitment to balance the budget by 2021.[9] In the fall of 2020, Sawhney's AISH portfolio attracted media attention as AISH was again under consideration for further cuts. In response to a Postmedia report revealing that the CSS was reviewing AISH and potentially making cuts, On September 14, Sawhney dismissed concerns saying, "Let me state definitively that there will be no cuts to AISH financial benefits."[10] On September 15, Premier Kenney said that the UCP was examining "eligibility criteria" for AISH benefits in order to cut provincial government costs.[11] AISH attracted media attention again in early October as AISH benefits cheques were late due to a banking technical problem.[12]

Homelessness and the Covid-19 pandemic

The UCP government announced $25 million in March and another $48 million in early August to help community organizations that work on homelessness by providing shelters and support for homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic.[13][14] The CSS said in September that there was enough capacity for emergency shelters in Calgary.[14] Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness's CEO, Tim Richter, told the Canadian Press, that normally winter emergency response planning is done in the summer. Concerns were raised that these plans had not been made by September, and the funding had not been allocated.[14]

Sawhney told the CP that she was working with her counterpart in the UCP cabinet—Seniors and Housing Minister Josephine Pon—to address the "very dire need" for "permanent supportive housing in Alberta."[13] In his response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's September 23, 2020 speech from the throne at the opening the 43rd Canadian Parliament, in which the federal government "focussed on entirely eliminating chronic homelessness in Canada", Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi, said that the federal commitment to end homelessness could result in Calgary ending homelessness in two years, if the municipal, provincial, and federal governments work together.[15]

References

  1. ^ Ferguson, Eva (March 8, 2018). "Calgary companies told to 'walk the talk' on pay equity". Calgary Herald. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  2. ^ Mall, Rattan (November 4, 2018). "Rajan Sawhney wins United Conservative nomination in Calgary north east". The Indo-Canadian Voice Online. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  3. ^ "Alberta election: Calgary-North East results". Global News. March 17, 2019. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Mosleh, Omar (July 15, 2020). "'It's heartless': Alberta considers privatizing care for disabled residents — to the dismay of their guardians". The Star. Edmonton. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Alternative Delivery Model for Direct Operations - ER02-2020 | MERX". Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d Kaufmann, Bill (July 25, 2020). "Caregivers and families of developmentally disabled target UCP over privatization fears". Calgary Herald. Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  7. ^ Yousif, Nadine (October 25, 2019). "UCP's new budget met with outrage over the untying of disability benefits to inflation". The Star Edmonton. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  8. ^ Fall 2018 - Bill 26: An Act to Combat Poverty and Fight for Albertans with Disabilities, 2018, retrieved October 3, 2020
  9. ^ Dawson, Tyler (October 24, 2019). "Jason Kenney's conservatives deliver the tougher budget they warned Albertans was necessary". National Post. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  10. ^ Sidhu, Ina (September 14, 2020). "Minister rules out cuts to AISH, but recipients still worried of future changes". CTV News. Calgary, Alberta. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  11. ^ Hudes, Sammy (September 15, 2020). "To 'achieve savings,' Kenney says UCP looking at 'the number of people qualifying' for AISH". Calgary Herald. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  12. ^ Boothby, Lauren (October 3, 2020). "AISH recipients see delay in October cheques; NDP MLA living on AISH budget for next month". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  13. ^ a b Krugel, Lauren (August 5, 2020). "Alberta government announces $48M to support homeless during pandemic". The Canadian Press via The Star. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  14. ^ a b c "Calgary doctor urging more shelter space as cold weather approaches". The Canadian Press via CBC News. Calgary, Alberta. September 11, 2020. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  15. ^ Villani, Mark (September 24, 2020). "Nenshi encouraged by federal commitment to address homelessness, public transit". CTV Calgary. Retrieved October 8, 2020.