Rona Ambrose

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Well, nobody in the shrunken Parliamentary ranks of the Conservative Party of Canada is going to say anything rude about Rona Ambrose, Member of Parliament for Sturgeon River-Parkland northwest of Edmonton, now that they’ve chosen her as their interim helmsperson and leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

And on paper, Ambrose has a thrilling resume — former holder of eight different cabinet posts since 2006, several of them important; the youngest woman ever appointed to cabinet; an MP for more than a decade regularly elected without breaking in to a sweat by whopping majorities; trilingual (English, Portuguese and Spanish); and so on. Her Wikipedia biography says she grew up both in Brazil and Parkland County, Alberta — although not at the same time, presumably.

Mainstream media seems to have taken the bait hook line and sinker, anxious to present Ms. Ambrose as an attractive and youthful yet conservative counterpoint to Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Not so fast! On the job, she is not quite as inspiring as on paper. Moreover, nowadays, while sightings are reported from time to time, she seems to be largely a stranger to her riding. Does she even live there? It’s hard to tell from the murky reports on the Internet.

Ambrose, who is now 46, is said to be big fan of Ayn Rand novels like Atlas Shrugged, and we all know what that means. One of far-right video agitator Ezra Levant’s failed publications named her No. 17 on a list of “pro-freedom activists, journalists, think-tankers and partisans.”

Ambrose’s performance as environment minister in the mid-Zeros was seen as underwhelming, after which then-prime-minister Stephen Harper seemed to demote her for a spell.

But as political columnist Don Martin put it in a National Post piece back in 2010, she “was kicked rather unceremoniously out of the green portfolio for merely following orders.” The orders in question being Harper’s, of course, to get Canada the hell out of the Kyoto Protocol, which was despised by the Republican clones who prospered under the former Dear Leader’s regime.

Perhaps she said a little too much from time to time and was sent somewhere for some reeducation.

Whatever happened, it seems to have worked. Ambrose’s record thereafter in such roles as pro-life minister for the status of women and hyperbolically marijuana-hating minister of health was certainly that of a well-trained Harper loyalist who knew how to stick to her talking points and behave. The headline writer for Martin’s story cleverly dubbed her the Minister for Keeping Her Mouth Shut, and Martin proclaimed her to be “back in Stephen Harper’s inner circle of love.”

So her choice by Conservative MPs and Senators as interim party leader yesterday suggests to me that the former prime minister remains firmly in control of his party, and that it is unlikely to deviate from Harper’s hard-right policy preferences and inclination for divisive wedge issues as long as Ambrose has her hand on the wheel.

If you were hoping for a reborn Conservative Party that would open the door a crack to the return of Red Tories, moderate regard for a positive role for government and a kinder, gentler image under a new leader, don’t look for it with Ambrose temporarily residing in Stornoway, the Opposition leader’s residence in Ottawa.

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

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David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...