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'Worthwhile Canadian initiative': Rona Ambrose said to be departing politics to help out the Wilson Center

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Rona Ambrose (Photo: Number 10/flickr)

Well, that's no fun!

Rona Ambrose -- member of Parliament for the Alberta riding of Sturgeon River-Parkland on the west side of Edmonton and interim Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the nation's capital -- will give a farewell speech this morning at which it is universally acknowledged she will announce her departure from federal politics.

Tout le monde political Alberta has been abuzz for ages with entertaining rumours Ambrose was about to take on Jason Kenney and Brian Jean for the leadership of the new, soon-to-be-united Alberta provincial conservative party or, perhaps even better, that she was ready to battle Calgary's popular Mayor Naheed Nenshi for the honour of serving as Cowtown's chief magistrate.

The first version always seemed a bit unlikely, since the man she so loyally served in Parliament in recent years, former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, is clearly part of Kenney's support apparatus in the conservative effort to wrest Alberta back from Rachel Notley's New Democratic Party and restore the province to climate villainy.

And the second version was widely mocked in social media yesterday evening, after it was rather apologetically mentioned in the Toronto Star, because Calgary is not Edmonton and the distance between the two was taken to be symbolic of eastern journalists' lack of understanding of western geographical and political realities.

In truth, though, this story was not as far-fetched as it might have seemed at first blush, Ambrose having been widely perceived to have given up on the Edmonton region not long after her divorce from her first husband, Bruce Ambrose, in 2011. Her present domestic partner, James Patrick (J.P.) Veitch -- who is inevitably referenced as a former rodeo bull rider but would probably be described better as a well-heeled and well-connected oilpatch insider -- is a Calgary guy, after all, and the couple would have to live somewhere after they move out of Stornoway.

This, by the way, is not mentioned as a criticism, except perhaps of over-sensitive Alberta journalists always on the lookout for some slight by their counterparts in the big smoke on Lake Ontario. As has been noted in this space before, both John A. Macdonald and Tommy Douglas, to name just two with easy-to-remember names, served electoral districts far from where they actually lived. (Indeed, prime minister Macdonald never even visited Victoria, B.C.)

Alas for everyone who follows politics here in Alberta, though, not to mention the myriad journalists he scooped, the capable Josh Wingrove of Bloomberg News reported that Ambrose is leaving politics to work on the free trade file for … the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Canada Institute based in Washington, D.C.

This is decidedly unexciting news -- and it fits well, as luck would have it, right under the most famously boring headline in history, "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative." Yet the report has the ring of verisimilitude, Wingrove having managed to get his hands on a copy of the think-tank's press release announcing Ambrose's appointment. She will confront the chaotic trade policies of President Donald Trump’s Administration as head of the Wilson Centre's “efforts to convene U.S. and Canadian officials to explore the benefits of an integrated and competitive North American economy that is focused on job creation and prosperity," said the presser quoted by Wingrove.

She is probably well qualified for the job, having confronted and successfully controlled the chaotic members of her own caucus, not to mention its leadership candidates, after the party's loss to Liberals led by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau in the 2015 Canadian election, a job that cannot have been restful. She did so with only one major stumble -- being caught aboard a billionaire's yacht the same week she was assailing the prime minister for being caught aboard a billionaire's helicopter. Ah well, it could have happened to any one of us.

The Wilson Center is tied closely to the U.S. government. It is housed in the Ronald Reagan Building. And so, if this report turns out to be correct, as a former Conservative Party leader Ambrose should feel right at home.

The Wilson Center is not related to the Wilson Climbing Centre at the University of Alberta. The former is named for President Woodrow Wilson, whose exploits are celebrated in the famous song by Warren Zevon, the latter after generous donors Dick and Carol Wilson.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Number 10/flickr

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