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Girls & Women

Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose Calls for More Women in Government as She Steps Down From Office

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Rona Ambrose — a political leader whose work has been critical in furthering the rights of women and girls in Canada — announced this week she is giving up her seat as Member of Parliament when the House rises in June.

Ambrose made the announcement during a breakfast speech at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa.

A longtime champion for women, Ambrose worked with various women’s rights organizations such as the Status of Women Action Group, the Edmonton Women’s Shelter, and the Victoria Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse Crisis Centre before even going into politics.

She was first elected to the House of Commons in the Edmonton-Spruce Grove riding during the 2004 election. Ambrose garnered attention in 2005 after a dispute about child-care spending with Liberal MP Ken Dryden.

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Ambrose was appointed to the cabinet in 2006. From there, she held eight different cabinet roles in the Harper government including Minister of Environment, Health and Public Works, and the Status of Women. She became the interim leader when the Conservatives were defeated in October 2015.

“As prime minister, I had the privilege of appointing Rona to some of the most complex and challenging cabinet portfolios in government,” former prime minister Harper wrote in a post on Facebook. “Yet despite a heavy workload, Rona always retained her warm and charming manner and down to earth Alberta humour.”

In her speech, Ambrose expressed admiration for her political party and made a statement about the future.

“We need to continue reaching out to Canadians of all backgrounds to make our case for change,” she said. “I think one way that we can do this… is by having more women on our team. And I believe that strongly.”

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“Rona has been a passionate and articulate advocate for the rights of women and girls. As Minister for the Status of Women, Rona sponsored a resolution at the United Nations recognizing Oct. 11 as International Day of the Girl,” Harper went on to say in his post. “This effort to enhance awareness of gender equality, equal access to education, health care, and protection from violence for all girls around the globe stands as a lasting testament to Rona's efforts.”

Helping establish International Day of the Girl is just one of Ambrose’s political accomplishments in the 13 years she’s worked in federal politics. Just recently, she succeeded in passing The JUST Act, a private member’s bill that will require judges to complete training on sexual assault law. The act also requires the Canadian Judicial Council to report on continuing education seminars in issues around sexual assault law.

“She’s our example of a strong, competitive, no-quotas-needed Conservative woman.”

Candice Berger, MP for Portage-Lisgar

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Another notable accomplishment, according to Ambrose, was her party’s hand in accelerating Yazidi refugee resettlements in Canada, a topic she lobbied for during a news conference on Parliament Hill in 2016.

The established politician is often credited with changing the face of the Conservative party. Shortly after taking over from Harper, Ambrose pledged full support for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. She endorsed the removal of the same-sex marriage ban from official Tory policy. The Conservatives also voted to strike the definition of marriage in the party’s official policy document.

Ambrose called for more women to run for the Conservative party, and she highlighted important achievements met by past female Conservatives.

“As a movement and as a party, we have worked hard since our founding to advance the rights of women, not just in Canada but around the world,” Ambrose said. “We should never forget that we’re the party of the first female cabinet minister and, of course, the first female prime minister.”

In the 2015 election, 88 women were elected as MPs, putting female representation in the House at 26%. It was a new record for Canada.

Fellow MP Candice Berger praised Ambrose as a leader saying, “She’s our example of a strong, competitive, no quotas needed Conservative woman.”

Ambrose was the youngest woman in Canadian history to be appointed to cabinet when she was selected in 2006.

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In a tribute to Ambrose, Berger brought up her role in fighting for all women in Canada.

“As minister of state for the status of women, she was instrumental in leading the charge as our Conservative government in the face of opposition from many sides, fought to ensure that First Nations women who live on reserves have the same property rights during divorce as women who don’t live on reserves.”

Ambrose will help manage the transition before joining the Washington-based Wilson Center as a visiting Global Fellow on Canada-U.S. trade issues at the Canada Institute.

“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.

Ambrose said that the new Conservative leader will have to work hard, but that she is “incredible optimistic” about her party’s future.