Bardish Chagger is the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons & Minister of Small Business and Tourism
1. You are the first woman in Canadian history to become the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. What does this honour mean to you?
It reminds me why my grandfather chose Canada. When a young girl approaches me and says, “Maybe I’ll be Canada’s first woman elected Prime Minister,” I say – yes, you could be! Anything really is possible in Canada. Our government shows the importance of working together. We are the first gender-balanced cabinet in Canadian history because of the leadership of our Prime Minister – the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau. He reminds us all the time that “better is always possible,” and he’s absolutely right.
2. What goals do you plan to achieve as Leader of the Government?
I’m going to build off the strong work the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc did during his time in the post. We are continuing to raise the bar on openness and transparency and setting a new tone in the House of Commons. I’ve always worked hard to bring people together and have recognized the strength collaboration brings. That’s what I want to bring to my role in the House of Commons. A big part of my job is to make sure every Member of Parliament (MP) has a chance to do their job which is to represent their constituents. That means making sure MPs from all the parties have a chance to speak. The best way we can all do that is making sure we have respectful and productive debates in the House of Commons.
3. What are your priorities as a member of the government?
Our government was elected with a strong mandate to help strengthen Canada’s middle class and those working hard to join it. We have put forward a number of ambitious measures to make that happen; the middle class tax cut, the new tax-free Canada Child Benefit, the historic agreement to enhance retirement savings through Canada Pension Plan. We were elected because Canadians want a government that takes the environment and climate change seriously, which is why one of the very first things PM Trudeau did after being sworn-in was go to the Paris climate change talks – recently the House of Commons voted to support our government’s ratification of the Paris Agreement. As Leader of the Government, I need to make sure we are advancing the legislative agenda through the House of Commons. We want to make sure these commitments are fulfilled.
4. As the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, tell us about your contribution to the ministry?
It is both an honour and privilege to represent Canada’s small and medium sized enterprises around the Cabinet table and to advocate for our vital tourism sector. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and now we have an equal voice at the Cabinet table. Middle class Canadians own them, work at them, shop at them – they are integral to every community in our nation. That’s why we are working so hard to give them what they need – to reduce the administrative burden on them, to open new export markets so they can expand. Of course also the Innovation Agenda which will ensure the best ideas get to shine – these are the companies developing the technologies of the future, they are creating the jobs Canadians want and need.
5. What are your future plans with regards to these two sectors?
We spent the summer holding consultations across the country for the Innovation Agenda. Some of the main themes we heard consistently were: accessing – and retaining – top talent both globally and within Canada; educating and developing the skills in Canadians to succeed in the new economy; opportunities to develop world-leading clusters that support a culture of innovation and economic growth; access to risk-capital for start-ups and patient capital for scaling-up companies. These are some of the main areas we want to address with the Innovation Agenda. When it comes to tourism, the fact is this is a growing industry world-wide – the issue is that it’s not growing as quickly. In 2002, Canada was the seventh most popular tourist destination in the world, now we’re 18th. This is means we are losing out on opportunities and jobs. We are looking at a new tourism vision to turn that trend around.
6. How do you see the tourism sector of Canada? What changes are needed?
The tourism sector supports one in 11 jobs in our country. It contributes $90-billion to our country’s GDP. This is an industry that is vital to our economy and affects communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast. I’m developing a new tourism vision for this sector – a new way of looking at the industry and how we are maximizing the opportunities in it. To do this, I’m taking a whole-of-government approach. Tourism isn’t a stand-alone industry – it involves transport, Parks Canada, infrastructure, Indigenous experiences, foreign affairs, and culinary tourism. It touches on so many aspects of our economy and every community – so that’s why it’s so import we all collaborate on this. I met with my provincial and territorial tourism counter-parts in Winnipeg at the start of this year; we will be meeting again in November in Iqaluit. Provinces and territories recognize tourism as an important economic driver as our government does.
7. How do you picture the future of Canada’s business scene?
The world continues to change very quickly, and we don’t want to just keep up, we want to lead the way. Canadian businesses need to be able to adapt in order to survive and grow. We need to spot opportunities to create jobs, drive growth across all industries, and improve lives. The country is at its most prosperous when everyone has a fair chance at success. This is why my colleagues – Minister Bains and Minister Duncan – and I are working so hard to develop the Innovation Agenda. That’s what is needed to feed growth; and when companies grow, they create more jobs and opportunities. It is the path to inclusive growth and will help Canada foster a thriving middle class and open the country to new economic, social and environmental possibilities.
8. You are also the MP for Waterloo. Do talk about the growth and development of the city?
Waterloo is an amazing region on so many levels. We have three post-secondary institutions – University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Conestoga College. They all offer world-class education, including co-operative programs. We are world-renowned for being an innovation hub and a leading technology centre – what is less known is what a wonderful, diverse community we have. We are not a single-industry town, we are leaders in insurance, manufacturing, research, and the list goes on. Beyond being a major centre for the Canadian economy – it’s also a great place to live, work, and play.
9. What new initiatives should Canadians expect in the field of tourism and business in 2017?
2017 is going to be a huge year for tourism. It marks Canada’s 150th anniversary since Confederation and we have big plans for that right across our nation. Access to all national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas will be free for the whole year. Canada is the place to be in 2017 and beyond. I encourage all Canadians to checkout Destination Canada’s Signature Experiences webpage. It has some of the best of what our nation has to offer, from culinary tourism, to festivals, to indigenous experiences. We are so blessed in this country to have virtually every culture in the world represented in one nation – and if you want to travel the world, you can do it all in Canada.
10. What are your other interests beyond work?
I have many interests and am always open to new adventures though it really comes down to who I’m with. I love spending time with my family, my friends, and all my loved ones – whether hanging out at home or out around the city. As a MP I get to meet many new people and attend many events in the community; it’s one of the best parts of the job as I enjoy meeting people and have always attended many of these events and festivals and now I get to do it as part of my job.