OTTAWA – Interim Opposition leader Rona Ambrose began to say good bye to life in politics Tuesday.
The longtime Conservative MP, who has led the Conservatives since they formed Opposition in 2015, will resign her seat in the House of Commons when MPs break for summer.
“As my time comes to an end, I think it’s important to look forward,” she told a crowd of MPs and other political watchers during a speech on the state of the Conservative party.
“To seek a new chapter in my life.”
COMMENTARY: Ambrose steps aside, for now?
The Conservatives are in the midst of choosing a new leader and the winner will be announced on May 27 at a convention in Toronto.
Ambrose called the race “competitive,” and noted it’s drawn hundreds of thousands of new members to the party.
“Nobody walks on water to get to the party leadership,” she said, adding that the winner is going to need to spend time listening and learning.
Ambrose will stay on to help manage the transition before making her way into the private sector, which will include taking up a position as a visiting fellow at the Canada Institute of the Wilson Center, a Washington, D.C., based, public policy think tank.
In a statement, the institute said her job will be to bring together Canada and U.S. officials with a focus on exploring issues key to the North American economy.
“She has demonstrated extraordinary leadership both in government and in opposition on Canada-U.S. issues, Ms. Ambrose will be a source of insightful ideas and a champion of North American competitiveness during the renegotiation of NAFTA this fall,” Canada Institute director Laura Dawson said in a statement.
In her speech, Ambrose said she wants to encourage more women to run for the Conservative party and to engage in the movement.
She paid tribute to the women in the Conservative caucus, noting that unlike the Liberals, she didn’t put them in key positions for a “quota,” a swipe at Trudeau’s gender-balanced cabinet.
“We do it because we have women that can compete,”she said.
Ambrose was first elected an MP in 2004 and shot to national attention the next year when she sparred with Liberal MP Ken Dryden over the government of the day’s child-care spending.
“We fought long and hard for the right to vote, for the right to participate in universities and the work force and the right to make our own choices,” she said.
“We don’t need old white guys telling us what to do.”
When the Conservatives formed a minority government in 2006, Ambrose was appointed as environment minister, but was shuffled out after a tumultuous year in the portfolio.
She also served as minister of labour, public works and health.
“Despite a heavy workload, Rona always retained her warm and charming manner and down-to-earth Alberta humour,” former leader and prime minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.
“Rona’s highly capable leadership of the Conservative team has set a high bar for those who will follow.”
While the Tories were booted out of office in 2015, Ambrose won her riding with 70 per cent of the vote and went on to win the internal caucus election for interim leader.
She is credited by many MPs and observers with changing the face of the party in the wake of its election defeat.
“Canadians asked us to change our tone and we listened,” she said during her speech.
“. . . We presented a fresh face to Canadians who now see a smart team that is a very real alternative.”
A movement even sprang up to get Ambrose to stay on and run for the permanent position, though efforts to change the party’s constitution to allow for that ultimately failed.
She joked Tuesday that perhaps people will now try to draft her partner, J.P. Veitch, who was known for wearing a T-shirt that read “Stornoway Pool Boy,” a reference to the Official Opposition leader’s residence, where the duo have lived for nearly the last two years.
Ambrose scored possibly her final victory as interim leader Monday, when the Liberal government decided to support her private member’s bill that would require judges to undergo comprehensive training in sexual assault law.
Story by Stephanie Levitz.