Alberta Premier Kenney appoints 3 South Asians to cabinet, including one responsible for multiculturalism

Jason Kenney
Jason Kenney

ALBERTA Premier Jason Kenney on Tuesday appointed three South Asians to cabinet: Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Community and Social Services; Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women; and Prasad Panda, Minister of Infrastructure.

Another South Asian, Muhammad Yaseen, was appointed Parliamentary Secretary of Immigration.

Diversity is reflected through the 13 different languages spoken by ministers and, for the first time, Alberta will have a minister responsible for multiculturalism, as well as a dedicated parliamentary secretary. The province will be well served in attracting entrepreneurial immigrants who create jobs and bring economic growth to Alberta with a minister of immigration.

Alberta’s new government is one of the most youthful in Canada, with a strong mandate to represent all Albertans.

Kenney said: “Many of the ministers appointed are Albertans by choice and not chance, having immigrated to this province because they saw it as a land of opportunity that they now seek to serve. Alberta’s new cabinet includes farmers, teachers, tradespeople, small business owners, lawyers, business executives, musicians, oil and gas experts, public servants and a range of other professional backgrounds. These ministers are in touch with the lives of the people they will be serving.”

He added: “This is a young, energetic and diverse team with deep experience. With an average age of 43, most members of this cabinet are new to public service. They ran for all of the right reasons: because they want to work hard to reverse years of economic decline and stagnation, and to get our economy moving again. This is a team that will be obsessed with creating jobs, showing the world that Alberta is open for business again, and fighting for a fair deal in Canada.”

Full biographies for Alberta’s new cabinet can be found on Alberta.ca.

Ministers
Premier Jason Kenney, President of Executive Council and Minister of Intergovernmental Relations
Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education
Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry
Rebecca Shulz, Minister of Children’s Services
Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Community and Social Services
Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
Tanya Fir, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism
Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education
Sonya Savage, Minister of Energy
Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks
Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health
Rick Wilson, Minister of Indigenous Relations
Prasad Panda, Minister of Infrastructure
Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General
Jason Copping, Minister of Labour and Immigration
Kaycee Madu, Minister of Municipal Affairs
Josephine Pon, Minister of Seniors and Housing
Nate Glubish, Minister of Service Alberta
Ric McIver, Minister of Transportation
Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance

Associate Ministers
Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
Dale Nally, Associate Minister of Natural Gas
Grant Hunter, Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction

Parliamentary Secretary
Muhammad Yaseen, Parliamentary Secretary of Immigration

South Asian ministers and parliamentary secretary

Rajan Sawhney was appointed as Alberta’s Minister of Community and Social Services.

Sawhney was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta on April 16, 2019, as the MLA for Calgary-North East.

Sawhney is a mother of four, an activist, an engaged community volunteer and a senior professional in the Oil and Gas industry. Born and raised in NE Calgary, Sawhney is a first generation Canadian, the daughter of parents who immigrated from India. Rajan attended the University of Calgary, earning a degree in Economics and Political Science as well as an MBA.

Sawhney has worked in the oil patch for well over 20 years in a variety of different roles in economics and business development. Prior to her election, she served as the Vice President of Business Development for Fracture Modeling Inc.

As an active volunteer, Sawhney is passionate about community engagement initiatives. She has played a key role in leadership with several non-profit organizations and has also spearheaded several programs and events designed to spread awareness and raise funds for worthy causes. For her community engagement work, Rajan was recognized as a Community Builder by the YWCA for Canada 150.

 

Leela Aheer was appointed as Alberta’s Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism & Status of Women.

Aheer was first elected as the Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for the constituency of Chestermere-Rocky View on May 5, 2015. She was re-elected on April 16, 2019, as the MLA for the newly formed riding of Chestermere-Strathmore.

Born in Edmonton and raised in Chestermere, where she is raising her family. [She has been married for 23 years to her husband Malkeet and has two grown sons, Akesh and Sehran.] Prior to entering politics, Aheer served as a drama and music teacher, a French and Spanish instructor, owned and operated businesses as an entrepreneur, and was heavily involved in volunteerism and community service.

Previously serving as the Opposition Critic for Children’s Services and Status of Women, Aheer brings her experience as a legislator to her new portfolio. A key priority of the new government is to provide more protections for women, through initiatives like Clare’s Law.

 

Prasad Panda was appointed as Alberta’s Infrastructure Minister.

Panda was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in a by-election on September 3, 2015 as the MLA for Calgary-Foothills. Panda was re-elected on April 16, 2019, as the MLA for the newly formed riding of Calgary-Edgemont.

Born in Sangam Jagarlamudi, Andhra Pradesh, India, Panda has lived in the constituency of Calgary-Edgemont for 15 years. An active member of his community, his volunteer experience includes serving as president of the Telugu Association of Calgary and as the first vice-president of the India-Canada Association of Calgary. Panda organizes an annual Food Drive for Calgary Veterans.

A Professional Engineer by trade, Panda holds a Bachelor of Technology in Mechanical Engineering and is a member of APEGA. He previously worked in the energy sector for 28 years, during which time he held Senior Management Positions with Reliance Industries Ltd. and Suncor Energy Inc. Panda was a key member of the Project Management Teams that built world scale projects worth over $100 Billion Dollars, including Petroleum, Petrochemical, Power, Pipelines and Marine Infrastructure and Oil Sands Development projects.

During the last Legislature, Panda was a member of the Legislative Standing Committees on Public Accounts, Resource Stewardship and Alberta’s Economic Future and served as the Official Opposition Critic for Energy and Economic Development and Trade.

Panda will apply his extensive private and public sector experience on delivering key infrastructure needs Albertans rely on including LRT expansions in Calgary and Edmonton.

 

Muhammad Yaseen was appointed Parliamentary Secretary of Immigration.

Yaseen has an extensive professional background in the energy sector. He began his career almost 40 years ago as a field technologist and has since attained a Master’s degree in engineering and an MBA. He now works as a contract advisor in the oil and gas industry. Kenney said that his understanding of pipeline and market access policies made him a tremendous asset to the United Conservative team.