Rona Ambrose leaves behind political life with an A-plus rating
Speaking of departing interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose, veteran MP Scott Reid said in The National Post: “She’s the best prime minister that Canada never had.”
That praise might seem a tad hyperbolic, but it is fair to say Ambrose’s departure from politics leaves Canadian political life less rich. She inherited a mess in the wake of Stephen Harper’s loss. In a situation where the Conservatives could easily have devolved into warring factions, Ambrose brought strength, collaboration and stability.
She’s so popular that Reid and others started a “draft Rona” movement. They were willing to change the party constitution to allow her to seek permanent leadership. But Ambrose never wavered from her original commitment. She was there to help the party get through this transition, and then get out of the way. And that’s exactly what she will do when she leaves politics this summer.
At the same time as she was masterfully uniting her caucus, she was doing her job as an effective Opposition leader. She wasn’t bombastic or overly dramatic. Many of her exchanges with the government were solid, if not spectacular. But she could play hardball as she showed repeatedly in Question Period when taking the government to task.
And she led the effort to change the face of the Conservative Party. Intolerance and identity politics virtually disappeared. With her leadership, personality and style, she expanded the Conservative tent. She stayed true to Conservative ideals while not slipping into the sort of discriminatory politics that the Harper government indulged in.
But what now? Without Ambrose’s stabilizing influence, what will happen to the fractious Conservative caucus? And more to the point, will a new leader, scheduled to be chosen May 27, undo or sustain the positive changes Ambrose has wrought? Will Conservatives choose a leader who will continue to grow the tent, or shrink it? Kellie Leitch, key driver of the “barbaric cultural practices” tip line, will ensure immigrants embrace “Canadian values” or be refused entry — as well as kill the CBC and crack down on environmental activism.
Steven Blaney will ban the niqab at citizenship ceremonies, which courts have ruled is illegal. Maxime Bernier wants to dismantle agricultural supply management, kill the CBC and implement a libertarian agenda. Pierre Lemieux wants to reopen debate on same-sex marriage and abortion. Not all 13 candidates are so extreme – Lisa Raitt and Michael Chong offer more moderate options that would appeal to a broader range of Canadians.
Will Conservatives choose extremism or the big tent? That will confirm whether Ambrose’s efforts have been for good purpose or in vain.