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Smith replaces candidate who isn't running with candidate who'd said she wouldn't run

Rajan Sawhney stands with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith after Sawhney was sworn into cabinet as Minister of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism in Edmonton, on Oct. 24, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

CALGARY — Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has appointed a replacement candidate for a cabinet minister who says she won't be running in this spring's election, and the replacement is also a minister who previously said that she, too, wouldn't be running.

Smith's United Conservatives issued a news release on Saturday saying Rajan Sawhney, the province's minister of trade, immigration and multiculturalism who represents Calgary-North East in the legislature, has been appointed to run in Calgary-North West.

That riding is currently represented by Environment Minister Sonya Savage, who announced last week that she wouldn't seek re-election because she wants to spend more time with her family.

Sawhney announced in February that she would not run again in the upcoming election in May, but said she was still a strong supporter of Smith and looked forward to the United Conservative Party forming government again after May.

The party's news release quotes Smith saying she consulted with the Calgary-North West constituency board about appointing Sawhney to run, and also quotes the board's president, Ward Sutherland, who says he's looking forward to working with her.

Smith told her provincewide, phone-in radio program Saturday that she wanted to find a way to keep Sawhney involved after she announced her plans to step down.

"So when Sonya Savage told me that she was going to step down so that she could spend more time with family, I went back to minister Sawhney and said, 'Do you think you might want to run there?' And she gave it some consideration and we announced this morning that she has agreed to do that," Smith told listeners.

Sawhney ran against Smith in last fall's UCP leadership race.

Sawhney could not be immediately reached for comment.

Michael Lisboa-Smith, the Alberta NDP candidate in Calgary-North West, issued a statement saying he welcomed Sawhney to the race, but adding people he's met on doorsteps are "eager to get rid of the chaos and costs of Danielle Smith and the UCP."

“I know many folks will be asking why Rajan Sawhney is appointed the UCP candidate in our community after she declined to contest the UCP nomination in the riding she currently represents," Lisboa-Smith said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2023.

The Canadian Press