Rajan Sawhney, minister of community and social services, spent last week visiting a number of towns across Southern Alberta, wrapping up with a visit in Drumheller on Friday, August 21.
Minister Sawhney spent the day with Mayor Heather Colberg and members of the Drumheller Valley Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), Drumheller and Region Transition Society (DARTS), and local Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner.
“We talked a lot about the program itself and what DARTS does for the community and all of the community relationships that exist,” Minister Sawhney told the Mail. “Similarly the FCSS visit with the staff was a good overview of everything that Drumheller does as a community with their FCSS dollars.”
Sawhney has visited Drumheller numerous times with her children, though this was her first visit in her capacity as minister.
Sawhney, a born and raised Calgarian, received a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, and a master’s of business administration from the University of Calgary. Prior to entering the political field, she spent more than 20 years in the oil and gas industry while also balancing family life as the mother of four children, and as an avid volunteer.
As minister of community and social services, Sawhney said her office was “very anticipatory of the fact we would see increased needs” stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know once federal support runs out with CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) that we will have some issues with income tax filing. Those are things I hadn’t anticipated,” she said.
Mental health, addictions, family and domestic violence, and homelessness are concerns which have an effect on a provincial level, rural communities and urban centres often handle these social concerns in very different ways. Minister Sawhney noted part of her motivation for visiting with rural communities was to get a better understanding of their specific needs.
In Sawhney’s constituency of Calgary-North East, many social concerns are due to language and cultural barriers faced by newcomers to Canada. Locally, and in other rural areas, the concerns come from struggles to access services as there are often fewer providers available.
Although services may not be as abundantly available as in urban and city centres, Sawhney noted the services accessible rurally often “collaborate and synergize” more effectively than their urban counterparts.
Minister Sawney added the services provided locally by DARTS is important for the community saying, “It’s so critical to serve persons with developmental disabilities and they (DARTS) are probably the gold standard of what I have seen across the province.”
FCSS also is a very crucial part of providing social service needs to communities, serving more than 200 municipalities in Alberta. Sawhney noted the visit across Southern Alberta will help her better understand the different needs of municipalities and to better tailor the services to fit the needs of their communities.