Rona Am­brose leaves be­hind po­lit­i­cal life with an A-plus rat­ing

Cape Breton Post - - Op-Ed -

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.


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