Bardish Chagger adds government House leader to small business, tourism duties

Small Business and Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger has had the role of government House leader added to her responsibilities.

Chagger becomes 1st woman to hold the job of guiding government legislation through Parliament

Minister of Small Business and Tourism Bardish Chagger stands next to Governor General David Johnston after being sworn in as Leader of the Government in the House of Commons at Rideau Hall on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016 in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Waterloo MP and Minister of Small Business and Tourism Bardish Chagger has been named the new government House Leader in a swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall. 

Chagger becomes the first woman to hold the position in Canadian history. 

"This is a tremendous opportunity. I have been involved in the political process for basically my whole life," Chagger told reporters on Parliament Hill about an hour after her swearing-in.

"I know what democracy should look like. Democracy should be engaging Canadians. That is the leadership of our prime minister and that's why the whole of government approach will work for Canada."

After answering a French-language question in English, Chagger was questioned on her competency in Canada's other official language.

Defending herself, the new House leader said in French that she understood the language when spoken by others but did not yet have the confidence to speak it herself, adding that she intends to improve her language skills.

Chagger takes over the job of leading the government's agenda through Parliament from Dominic LeBlanc, who remains in the fisheries portfolio he assumed after Hunter Tootoo's resignation in the spring.

Tootoo left the fisheries post and resigned from the Liberal caucus to seek treatment for addiction. He later said the move came after an "inappropriate" relationship with a staffer.

According to a government statement, LeBlanc will now be "dedicated solely" to his role as minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard but will be given "additional responsibilities in the coming days."

The statement said Trudeau thanked LeBlanc for his contributions as House leader and "expressed his confidence in minister Chagger as a worthy successor."

LeBlanc made no attempt to conceal his desire to remain in the post of fisheries minister after serving an uneven term as House leader that often rubbed other members of the House the wrong way.

Bardish Chagger doesn't rule out closure as new government house leader

7 years ago
Duration 1:14
Featured VideoGovernment House Leader Bardish Chagger speaks to reporters after being sworn in at Rideau Hall.

He was compelled to back-pedal an attempt to force legislation through Parliament by using a controversial motion that would have stripped away the power of opposition MPs in the House. 

The move, referred to as motion six, would have given Liberals the ability to control Commons debate. The tactic followed days of acrimony as Trudeau's government struggled to advance priority legislation on assisted dying.

Asked if she stick with some of LeBlanc's methods, such as invoking closure to limit debate in the Commons, Chagger was guarded, refusing to say where she stood on the practice.

"Today is my first day on the job, so let's work with the team and let's get there," she said. "I really do believe that we can all work together."

Chagger is a rookie MP who was first elected to the House of Commons in last year's federal election.

She was born and raised in the Waterloo region, attending the University of Waterloo where she was the president of the Young Liberals. 

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science she worked as an assistant to former Kitchener-Waterloo MP Andrew Telegdi for four years before becoming a community organizer in 2009.

Bardish Chagger sworn in as government house leader

7 years ago
Duration 1:34
Featured VideoWaterloo MP Bardish Chagger is sworn in as government house leader on August 19. She will keep her position as minister of small business and tourism.