Conversation with the Honourable Jason Luan, Minister of Community and Social Services

AUMA had a conversation with the Honourable Jason Luan, Minister of Community and Social Services, to discuss areas of key interest to our municipalities.

This is part of AUMA's ongoing series of conversations with provincial ministers. Read our previous conversations with Hon. Kaycee Madu , Hon. Travis Toews, Hon. Tracy Allard and Hon. Ric McIver.

AUMA: What is your favourite hobby and why?

Minister Luan: Badminton, golf, running, and hiking. I enjoy physical exercise, as it helps me keep healthy. My belief is that if I’m healthy, I can be at my best serving others.

AUMA: You have been involved as a volunteer over the years. Do you have a favourite volunteer story you would like to share?

Minister Luan: It was during a community fundraiser back in 2016 for the fires in Fort McMurray. When I saw Albertans fleeing for their lives, of course I wanted to pitch in and help. I was at the fundraiser and I vividly remember one of the elementary students in attendance donated her own money to help. The young girl donated $10 from her allowance to help the kids of Fort McMurray recover from the fire. It was a truly touching moment because it showed all Canadians, even our future leaders, coming together to help our neighbours. I call it the great Canadian culture and Alberta spirit. When things are tough, we're always jumping to help each other.

AUMA: What book are you reading right now?

Minister Luan: Rich Dad Poor Dad. Financial management. It's a new area I’ve been focused on learning and gaining new skills. If you have the opportunity, it’s a great read to learn about managing your own wealth.

AUMA: What would our members be surprised to learn about you?

Minister Luan: I don't like driving. I'm the last one to volunteer to drive when I go on a road trip.

AUMA: You previously served in a government caucus. What do you find has changed the most since your first term in office? 

Minister Luan: Back in my first term in 2012, it was different. I felt like I was the new kid on the block trying to learn the ropes. Many of my colleagues had served for decades. Now it’s the reverse; many are brand-new MLAs who are full of energy and eager to learn. Honestly, I learned a lot from both experiences.

AUMA: What do you see as the biggest challenges(s) facing you in this new role?

Minister Luan: COVID-19 has hit us hard, not only financially, but also the demand on social services. The question I always ask myself is: how do we figure out a way to advance our government resources to go further, while still providing the important services our most vulnerable need? So, that’s why I toured the province this summer to get creative ideas from our stakeholders.

AUMA: What do you need to accomplish over your tenure as Minister to deem your performance a success?

Minister Luan: With my 28 years of professional social work experience, I consider this an opportunity to capitalize on what I’ve learned in this field and to translate that work into positive changes for vulnerable Albertans.

AUMA: The federal government seems to increasingly be announcing capital funding support that requires provincial operating support funding. Do you see risk in leaving federal funding on the table, and how do you plan to maximize the amount of federal capital spending flowing into Alberta?

Minister Luan: Alberta’s government is committed to working with our community partners and other orders of government to leverage the best results for our community. We also want to ensure the project that’s undertaken is meeting the real needs of the community.

AUMA: Funding for income support in Budget 2021 was $66 million lower than last year's budget. Given the current high rate of unemployment in Alberta and the lingering impacts of the pandemic, do you see a reversal to this cut in future budgets?

Minister Luan: Alberta’s income support programs continue to be fully funded and eligible Albertans will continue to receive benefits at the established rates. While caseloads decreased during the pandemic, likely due to the availability of federal benefits, we anticipate caseloads will begin to increase again as these benefits wind down. As Income Support is a legislated program, the number of recipients in the program does not impact the overall benefit level for individuals.

AUMA: Research has shown that for every $1 invested in preventive social services, between $7 and $12 in future spending is saved. Investing in preventive social services means that long-term spending is reduced for justice, health care, and addiction treatment. Given that both the social and economic importance of preventive social services, will you commit to ensuring that funding for Family and Community Support Services programming is maintained?

Minister Luan: We recognize the Family and Community Support Services program is vitally important to Alberta municipalities to help provide preventive social services. In Budget 2021, we were proud to maintain funding for this program at $100 million and will continue to value this program.