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Bardish Chagger, Rookie Cabinet Minister, Promoted To Government House Leader

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has elevated first-time MP and rookie cabinet minister Bardish Chagger to the post of Government House Leader.

Chagger, the 36-year-old MP for Waterloo, Ont., is the first woman, and first visible minority, to hold the position.

bardish chagger
Bardish Chagger looks on after being sworn in as Leader of the Government in the House of Commons at Rideau Hall on Aug. 19, 2016. Photo: Justin Tang/CP)

She will be responsible for negotiating smooth passage of the government's agenda in the House of Commons as well as be the point person for any House reforms.

Speaking to reporters Friday afternoon, Chagger said she was honoured by the promotion and would continue to bring a positive, optimistic and collaborative tone to Parliament. But she declined to say what she would do differently, for example, pledging not to invoke closure on parliamentary debate.

"Today's is my first day on the job," she answered when pressed on specifics.

She will continue to raise the bar on an open Parliament, she said, adding she really believes parliamentarians "can all work together."

"I know what democracy should look like. Democracy should be engaging with Canadians."
— House Leader Bardish Chagger

When asked what experience she brings to the job, Chagger responded that she had been "involved in the political process basically my whole life.

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

Chagger said she and Trudeau had a "great conversation" Thursday where they discussed delivering a more open government, one that reflects Canadians and one that works as a team.

"I am so proud to be part of a cabinet that reflects Canada. That's why today is another exciting day," she said.

bardish chagger
Bardish Chagger speaks in the House of Commons on February 23, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

Chagger, who does not speak French but understands it, suggested she was tapped for a relatively big job because she works hard.

"I have never been a stranger to hard work. I believe in hard work and I'm up for the challenge."

She said she's working with a teacher to ameliorate her French and told a Quebec reporter she just lacks confidence.

Her ministerial mandate letter outlines 11 priorities, which include looking at ways to make Parliament more family friendly, such as getting rid of Friday sittings, and reforming question period. Trudeau has mused about establishing one question period a week directed solely for prime minister, which would free him up to spend more time outside Ottawa.

Chagger, who will also remain the minister of small business and tourism, replaces Dominic LeBlanc, the longtime New Brunswick MP, as Government House leader.

LeBlanc to stay at fisheries post

LeBlanc becomes the permanent minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada — a portfolio he was asked to take over after Hunter Tootoo resigned from cabinet and left the Liberal caucus in May after engaging in a sexual relationship with a younger staff member and seeking treatment for alcohol addiction.

LeBlanc's time as Government House leader was a bit rocky. He was criticized for suggesting a vote on medically assisted death would be whipped before the matter had been discussed in caucus.

The Liberals had promised during the election campaign that all votes would be free except for platform commitments, Charter issues and confidence matters.

LeBlanc was also seen as responsible for introducing Motion 6 in May that sought to limit parliamentary debate and take certain rights away from opposition parties. The measure was largely seen as a response to the Grits nearly losing a surprise vote in the Commons.

The move heightened tensions in Parliament and culminated in Trudeau inadvertently elbowing an NDP MP in the chest. LeBlanc later withdrew the motion.

Chagger was elected to Parliament last October. She previously worked as an assistant to the riding's former Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi.

With files from Ryan Maloney

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