A one-on-one with Bardish Chagger

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Q<strong>: How have your first three weeks been?</strong></p>

A: They have been, in one word, amazing. I say that because even though it’s very busy and there’s been a lot to learn and there’s been some really good information to receive, the energy has been amazing. 

: This new cabinet — it’s the most diverse cabinet that Canada has had — how does this effect your experience? 

A: It’s my Canada and my Canada is being represented in the cabinet and I think it’s really important [like] what the Prime Minister has said: “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.” We are defined by what we offer, not what we look like or what we wear, and to me that is not only exciting, but also empowering. 

: How will you use your knowledge of Waterloo, a city with many small businesses, to your advantage?

A: I will use it in every capacity that I can. I was born and raised in this community, I know that this community is strong, not in spite of our differences, but because of them … I would say it is second to none when it comes to the small business and tourism portfolio. People choose to come to the Waterloo Region, whether it’s for post-secondary education, whether it’s for work, whether it’s to raise their family. We have people who come here from across the nation and from across the world. So we are not new to being a welcoming community. When it comes to the small business portion of my portfolio, which goes hand in hand with tourism, this community knows the opportunities that come with small businesses, but we also recognize the challenges, and this is insight I will be tapping into. 

: Would you be able to speak about some of the challenges you’re hoping to address?

A: We are really good as a nation especially in this region of starting small businesses, our startups are huge. We’re not so good [at] watching them go from small business to medium-sized. Small- and medium-sized enterprises employ close to 90 per cent of Canada’s private sector workforce and they account for almost 40 per cent of the GDP. So we’re really good at starting businesses, but I would like to see them — and part of my mandate is to see them — grow, and to look at what the challenges small businesses are facing becoming medium-sized businesses. That’s something that I’ll be working closely with people in this region and across the nation to do and that’s where we’ll be working with many people that we’ve always worked with. 

: How will Waterloo benefit from having an MP in the cabinet?

A: Waterloo benefits by being the great people that we are and having an MP in the cabinet, I do believe it’s nice to have somebody at that table. What we’re recognizing as a government, we’re doing politics differently. We’re empowering all of our members of Parliament, we are working with members from all sides of the house. We are going to government by cabinet, so we have the ability to have that voice and be a part of that decision-making, so having a cabinet minister, yes, definitely does advance this region, but what I like to remind everyone is that what this region has to offer, we need to put on the map. Whether I was an MP or a cabinet minister, I will be a voice for this community and I will continue to remind the people of this nation and our government of what we have to offer and what we can do for Canada. 

: How will having an MP benefit UW?

A : University of Waterloo is where I graduated. The two universities and college are very close to my heart. I support post-secondary education. It was actually MPs within this community … that had originally started the post-secondary education caucus because it’s important that our colleges and universities have a voice. So when it comes to having a member on the government side, it’s important that we continue this relationship, but we also need to be working with representatives from all sides of the house because the University of Waterloo has a lot to offer and when it comes to the innovation agenda that we as a government have committed to, University of Waterloo’s voice will be very important, so we are committed to working with the University of Waterloo.

: What are you hoping to do with this position?

A: When it comes to small businesses, small business and tourism is really important to our economy — the potential to grow and advance Canada is huge within [my] agenda. So we really want our small business owners or small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to be put on the map. I’d like to see us providing the work and resources necessary for them to grow. I would also like to empower people within this portfolio, affected by this portfolio, to recognize that growth is possible. We can become export oriented. When it comes to women and business as well I think it’s important that we recognize the value that we offer, so I would like to be that voice. Not only am I committed to representing the people of my riding and of my region, I’m committed to representing the voice of small businesses and all members of the tourism industry.  

Q : How will the innovation   agenda benefit the University of Waterloo?

A: The innovation agenda is what I think is going to take up into the future. So this community, we are innovators — we’re not new to it — but we need to share that innovation and brainpower with the rest of the nation. The fact that we have a government today that’s pushing the innovation agenda, I think is phenomenal. The fact that we are working with Canadians and post-secondary institutions like the University of Waterloo to advance its innovation agenda, I believe is the way forward. 

Q: Additional thoughts?

A: I just want us to understand the importance of small businesses and recognizing that just starting and operating a small business, it takes hard work and I recognize that. And the government is committed to supporting those business that keep Canadians working and help drive the new innovation and creativity through our economy. So when it comes to job opportunities and growth, this is where its going to come from. Small businesses employ many Canadians. When you are graduating, when University of Waterloo students graduate or Laurier or Conestoga College or across this nation, we need to ensure that there’s meaningful employment for you. And working with small businesses, the SMEs is where a lot of that growth will come from. And that’s why I believe this portfolio is so important right now, and why I believe it’s so exciting that the minister is from the Waterloo Region, because there are many things that we do right and many things we know that we can do better. 

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