Elected for the first time in 2015, Bardish Chagger is the new Minister of Small Business and Tourism. This is a new role in which she is to work with the Ministers of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Finance, Environment and Climate Change, and International Trade to help small and medium sized enterprises across Canada. She has also been named Government House Leader in addition to her ministerial portfolio (the first woman to be appointed to the role), and sits on the board of Internal Economy.
The frequent defender of the government’s policies in the House, Chagger has been criticized recently for her handling of the issue of parliamentary reform. A package of “modernizing” policies put forward by the Liberal government was seen by some to limit the ability of opposition parties to challenge the government. Most of the controversial proposals were later dropped.
Born and raised in Waterloo by immigrant parents, her interest in politics came from her father who was active in the Liberal Party. Chagger herself got involved with the party in 1993 as a volunteer for Andrew Telegdi, Liberal MP for Waterloo and subsequently Kitchener–Waterloo.
Chagger graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Science in 2004 and had the intention of becoming a nurse. Instead she took on a role as Telegdi’s Executive Assistant. In that role she coordinated between Telegdi’s parliamentary and constituency offices, working with constituents to address concerns and assist them.
After Telegdi’s loss in 2011, Chagger worked as Special Projects Coordinator at the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, an organization helping new immigrants transition to life in Canada. In this role she planned the annual Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Festival and worked with other agencies to plan the Global Skills Conference, meant to help new immigrants find employment related to their existing skill set.
Chagger had been an active volunteer in her community. She was a volunteer board member with the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin. She was also on the board of MT Space, a not-for-profit theatre company, and arts and culture organization. She also actively volunteers for Interfaith Grand River, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Waterloo Rotary Club. She has said that we get out of our community what we put into it.
She was one of Waterloo’s Top 40 Under 40 as chosen by the Waterloo Region Record.