Am­brose’s win­ning ways merit praise

The Daily Observer - - OPINION -

When in­terim Con­ser­va­tive leader Rona Am­brose took to the stage at the an­nual par­lia­men­tary press gallery din­ner last year, the slightly loos­ened-up au­di­ence of scribes braced for a let­down. They had just been treated to an en­ter­tain­ing speech by the coun­try’s charis­matic new prime min­is­ter, in­clud­ing a yoga demon­stra­tion by his wife. Am­brose would have her work cut out to win this crowd.

But win it she did with funny jabs at her own party and the other lead­ers and jour­nal­ists, to say noth­ing of a racy joke about her hus­band. The even­ing was but one ex­am­ple of how Am­brose has changed the ap­proach and tone of the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive party since the 2015 de­feat of the grim­mer, Stephen Harper-led Tories.

In the year and a half that Am­brose led the Of­fi­cial Op­po­si­tion, she amassed gen­uine suc­cess, worth re­view­ing now that she has an­nounced she’s leav­ing the fed­eral scene.

First, she held to­gether a dispir­ited, de­feated party that had been rapped by vot­ers for its nasty, neg­a­tive cam­paign. When par­ties lose, they of­ten turn on them­selves, and while the Tories faced some soul-search­ing, Am­brose calmly steered a par­lia­men­tary cau­cus that car­ried out its op­po­si­tion work ef­fec­tively even with­out a per­ma­nent boss.

She did this while a lead­er­ship con­test was un­der­way, tak­ing sev­eral heavy hit­ters out of the daily lineup. Am­brose’s team still asked tough ques­tions, chal­lenged gov­ern­ment pol­icy, worked the com­mit­tees well and cham­pi­oned ideas that will, in 2019, al­low vot­ers clear choices.

She sup­ported women — and women in pol­i­tics — with­out be­ing stri­dent, showy or quota-driven. The Tory house leader is Candice Ber­gen; the im­mi­gra­tion critic is Michelle Rem­pel. Be­fore en­ter­ing the lead­er­ship, Lisa Raitt was the Tory fi­nance critic. Am­brose, whose Stornoway par­ties have in­cluded rais­ing re­sources for women’s shel­ters, cham­pi­oned the rights of Yazidi women and girls, and her pri­vate mem­ber’s bill, sup­ported by the gov­ern­ment, re­quires judges to be thor­oughly trained on sex­ual as­sault law.

The Tories raised $5.3 mil­lion in the first quar­ter of 2017, ahead of the Lib­er­als. This speaks to a party on sta­ble foot­ing, and Am­brose can take some credit.

She has not been a Lib­eral in Con­ser­va­tive cloth­ing.

Rather, she has been a down-to-Earth politi­cian who has cried in the House (and who shed some tears Tues­day), done her party proud, and whose record may at­tract more women into pol­i­tics. Truly, she won the crowd.

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