Leaving too soon

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Last week when Rona Ambrose announced she was leaving politics to take a job in the private sector, there was an outpouring of accolades.

The MP of Sturgeon River-Parkland has been interim leader for the federal Conservatives since Stephen Harper resigned after a devastating loss to Justin Trudeau in the 2015 election. By numerous accounts, Ambrose has done a very good job.

St. Albert MP Michael Cooper praised her for being an outstanding interim leader. He said she leaves big shoes to fill. Colleague MP Candice Bergen praised her efforts to unify a Conservative caucus during a leadership race. Without Ambrose’s careful stewardship this could have been more divisive to the party with a dozen candidates vying to be permanent leader of the Conservatives. Others have hailed Ambrose as a great parliamentarian and a champion for women in politics. On that latter point Ambrose appointed several female MPs to senior positions, and also encouraged women to enter politics.

“It truly has been the greatest honour of my life to serve in the House of Commons, something I never dreamed could have happened. But after 13 years, the time is right for the next generation of leadership to seek election to Parliament in Sturgeon River-Parkland,” Ambrose said in a post on social media.

During more than a decade in politics Ambrose served in several high profile cabinet posts in the Harper government including Environment, Health, Labour, and Public Works.

As interim leader of the Official Opposition, Ambrose has kept up the heat on the Liberal government to account for its spending, policies, lack of transparency and even an expensive junket by the prime minister on the Aga Khan’s private island.

She has made remarkably few missteps in her high profile role. Her party also managed to raise more than $5 million for its coffers in the first quarter of 2017, exhibiting a firm foundation for the party as she leaves.

No one can take away the achievements that Ambrose has accomplished in her stint in politics. But the timing of her departure is wrong. Ambrose is leaving halfway through her four-year mandate. She is letting down her constituents by quitting now, necessitating a byelection.

By leaving now, Ambrose gives several mixed messages. Ambrose says she believes in more women in politics, but she is leaving politics herself. She believes in the Conservative strength to beat the Liberals next election, but she is not willing to stick around and help in that effort.

Ambrose has pledged to help the new Conservative leader, to be chosen May 27, with the transition. This is all well and good, but her departure leaves a gaping hole. She could have played a significant role in unifying the party behind the new leader as well as helping the Conservatives prepare themselves for the next federal election.

Clearly Ambrose has much to offer in politics and in the private sector. The issue is the timing of her departure. She should have finished her mandate to her constituents before taking on this new role.

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