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Rona Ambrose set to leave federal politics


CBC News10 hrs ago


© CBC Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose will announce Tuesday she is stepping down as an MP.

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose is leaving federal politics, CBC News has confirmed.

The Edmonton MP will make the announcement Tuesday in Ottawa, sources say. Ambrose informed the Conservative Party of her decision on Friday. The news was first reported Monday by iPolitics.

The Conservatives are to pick their new leader at a convention on May 27 and Ambrose is expected to stay on as interim leader until then.

She will step down as MP after the spring sitting of Parliament ends in June, said sources who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity.

Ambrose was first elected to the House of Commons during the 2004 election, easily besting her Liberal opponent in the Edmonton-area riding.

"It was daunting, it was intimidating, but it was also exhilarating," Ambrose said after her first round in question period as a rookie MP.

"I asked our question period co-ordinator, [former Conservative MP] Jason Kenney, 'Well, what happens, this is my first day of question period practice, what happens if you ask the question, and they answer it, and they give you what you want?' And I think everyone just sort of laughed at me and said to me that doesn't usually happen."

Ambrose was immediately appointed to cabinet after former prime minister Stephen Harper secured a minority government in the 2006 campaign.

She would go on to hold eight different cabinet posts in the Harper government, including as minister of Environment, Health and Public Works, before the Conservatives were defeated in October 2015. She immediately set her sights on becoming the party's interim leader and beat out a number other contenders for the leadership following a preferential ballot vote.

A shift in leadership

Ambrose set a different tone for the party shortly after taking over from Harper, including pledging full support for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

"I ran into the new Justice Minister [Jody Wilson-Raybould] and I told her about my passion for ending violence against women. I told her, anything I can do to help her on the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, I will be there. This is an absolutely nonpartisan issue, it should never be political," Ambrose told CBC News in an interview shortly after taking over her new post.

Ambrose also backed the removal of the long-standing same-sex marriage ban from official Tory policy ahead of the party's convention in Vancouver last year.

"The Conservative Party welcomes all conservatives, regardless of sexual orientation. If you believe in smaller government, lower taxes, balanced budgets and individual freedom, we want you in our party," Ambrose said at the time.

Conservative delegates voted to strike the definition of marriage in the party's official policy document in May.

"There's no doubt she was the right person, at the right time, for this party," Ontario Conservative MP Larry Miller said. "I am surprised to hear [she's leaving] … We were totally caught off guard. But I think Rona and J.P. [Veitch, her partner] want their lives back."

"We've been so fortunate," added Ontario Conservative MP Bev Shipley, referring to Ambrose's interim leadership. "She's brought a human element to it, she's brought humour to it, she's brought the real Conservative party to the forefront."

Private member's bill expected to pass

Before entering politics, Ambrose was a women's advocate, working with organizations to end violence against women, including the Status of Women Action Group, the Victoria Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse Crisis Centre, and the Edmonton Women's Shelter.

To that end, Ambrose introduced a private member's bill this winter that would require anyone who wanted to be considered for a judicial appointment to undergo comprehensive training in sexual assault law.

Bill C-337 would also require the Canadian Judicial Council to report on continuing education courses in matters related to sexual assault law and change the Criminal Code to make courts provide written decisions in sexual assault cases.

The opposition NDP and, ultimately, the Liberal government threw their support behind Ambrose's legislation, which passed a vote at third reading Monday and now heads to the Senate.

Ambrose set out to rebuild the party after its 2015 defeat, spending time in Atlantic Canada, where the party was decimated by the Liberals.

She also sought to rebuild the party's fundraising war chest. According to financial returns filed with Elections Canada for the first quarter of 2017, the Conservative Party pulled in $5.3 million from almost 42,500 donors, compared with just $2.8 million from 31,812 donors who gave to the Liberals.

"I think Rona's got a great legacy with the party. She's maintained our party in the polls. I've really grown to like her, and I think a lot of people around the country admire the job that she did," Ontario Conservative MP Ben Lobb said.

"She's done an incredible job of being neutral in our leadership contest," Manitoba Conservative MP Ted Falk added, speaking of the race to replace Harper as permanent leader. "She's a real team leader."




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