Born in Valleyview, Alberta on March 15, 1969, as Ronalee Chapchuk to Colleen and James Chapchuk, she would grow up in both Parkland County, Alberta and Brazil.
Due to her time in Brazil, she would learn to speak both Portuguese and Spanish. She would spend most of her first 14 years living in Brazil, where her father worked for an oil exploration company. As a child, Ambrose enjoyed climbing up door frames and finding her way onto the roof of the house. Ambrose would say quote:
“She just went crazy, because I would get up on top of things and just had no fear, and I could barely walk.”
Ambrose would earn a Bachelor of Arts in women’s and gender studies at the University of Victoria, and a Master of Arts degree in political science from the University of Alberta.
Ambrose would spend a lot of her adult life prior to becoming a Member of Parliament helping organizations that focused on ending violence against women. She would work with the Status of Women Action Group, the Victoria Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse Crisis Centre and the Edmonton Women’s shelter.
In 1994, she would marry Bruce Ambrose.
Ten years later, she would decide the time was right to run for Parliament. In order to get to Parliament, she first had to win the nomination in her riding of Edmonton-Spruce Grove.
It would take four rounds of voting before Ambrose emerged as the winner. She would say quote:
“I bring some youth and I bring some fresh ideas on some of the emerging issues that I think we need to move on as the Conservative Party.”
She would say of getting the nomination to run before the election, quote:
Her win was even more impressive considering she defeated a former Alberta deputy minister, the former president of the St. Albert Alliance constituency association and the former mayor of Spruce Grove.
On why she decided to run, Ambrose would say in May 2004, quote:
“At the most visceral gut level, I’m really, really passionate about the country. It is really just a passion to make a change.”
Knowing the toll that politics can put on a marriage, the couple would work to find a balance even before the election result was known. Her husband Bruce would say quote:
“We made a deal going into this that we will work at keeping balance in our lives. We have to work at balance to make sure our marriage failing is not an option.”
In 2004, Ambrose was elected to the House of Commons in the riding of Edmonton-Spruce Grove. In her win, she would praise her competition, stating NDP candidate Hayley Phillips was an articulate young woman, and the Liberal Neil Mather still had time on his side.
Upon moving into her Parliament Hill office, one notable feature was a large picture of her dalmatian Haida. A friend of Ambrose knew she would miss her dog while in Ottawa, so she got her the picture. Haida had been a dog Ambrose and her husband had picked up to celebrate their marriage a decade previous.
As a backbencher, she quickly began to stand out in the party and she would be the key architect of the party’s position on child care, which involved direct payments to parents with young kids instead of supporting regulated daycare. Her work in this would cause Ambrose to gain criticism from the other parties, especially the Liberals.
As part of this, Ambrose made news across Canada when she told Liberal Social Development Minister Ken Dryden quote:
“Working women want to make their own choices, we don’t need white guys telling us what to do.”
Speaking of her first year in Parliament, she would say in 2015 quote:
“I was a brand-new politician and let me tell you, I was really good at policy, but I wasn’t very good at politics in my first year. I learned very quickly, a tough lesson, but I am better for it. I never took any of it personally, but I am glad I went through it, to be honest.”
After the Conservatives under Stephen Harper won the 2006 federal election, an election in which Ambrose won 66 per cent of the vote in her riding, she was soon promoted to Minister of the Environment, only 19 months after she joined Parliament. Ambrose would state quote:
“I’m thrilled, I really am. It is something I’ve always had a passion for, and I think it will be a real challenge. When I think of the environment as an issue, it is a portfolio that is very forward thinking, so I think it is a good fit for me.”
At the time, she was the youngest woman appointed to a cabinet position in Canadian history at the age of 37.
Meeting the Kyoto Protocol would be one of the main tasks for Ambrose early in her post as a cabinet minister. When asked if Canada would keep its commitment, she would respond quote:
“The question isn’t Kyoto. It is climate change and clean air and clean water.”
She would add in another interview quote:
“Our government is committed to addressing climate change in a way that will promote real progress.”
Two months after her appointment, she would announce on April 7, 2006 that Canada could not meet its Kyoto Protocol goals. She would state quote:
“My department officials and the department officials from natural resources have indicated that it is impossible, impossible for Canada to reach its Kyoto target. And let me be clear, I have been engaging with our international counterparts over the past month, and we are not the only country that is finding itself in this situation.”
One week later on April 13, Ambrose stopped Mark Tushingham, an Environment Canada scientist, from speaking at the launch of his science fiction novel Hotter than Hell. The book was set in a dystopian future caused by climate change. While the publisher and environmentalists stated that the book was not in line with the government’s views on climate change, hence the decision by Ambrose, she would state that an Environment Canada scientist speaking was speaking in an official capacity and that was out of process.
By June 2006, the NDP and Bloc Quebecois put forward a motion in the House of Commons environmental committee calling for her resignation over their discontent of her actions as environment minister. This was blocked by the Conservatives with help from the Liberals, as it would have been a confidence motion and that would have triggered an election.
NDP strategist would state quote:
“The Liberals are working awfully hard to save Rona Ambrose.”
Liberal environment critic John Godfrey would state quote:
“We would rather leave Ms. Ambrose in place because she represents the total incompetence of the government. We would rather let that fruit ripen, if I may put it that way.”
In reality, because Prime Minister Harper made it a confidence motion, the Liberals didn’t want to trigger an election and therefore voted against removing Ambrose from her position.
On Oct. 19, 2006, Ambrose introduced the Clean Air Act to govern greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2020, cutting them to 50 per cent of 2003 levels by 2050. She would also introduce regulations on industries and vehicles. Ambrose would say quote:
A few weeks later, Ambrose stated to a parliamentary committee that Canada had paid its debts under the Kyoto Protocol but this was contradicted by an Environment Canada official who stated the bill was still unpaid.
On Jan. 4, 2007, Ambrose was moved from the environment portfolio to become the Minister of Western Economic Diversification, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the President of the Queen’s Privy Council For Canada.
On Jan. 19, 2010, Ambrose would become the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. As minister, she would introduce a major project to improve how the government administered its pay and pension systems. This would become known as the Phoenix Pay System.
On April 9, 2010, Ambrose was named the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women. Ambrose would sponsor an International Day of the Girl Child proposal, which would be passed by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 19, 2011.
In 2011, she and her husband Bruce would divorce.
On Sept. 26, 2012, Ambrose voted in favour of Motion 312, which was a Conservative motion which would direct a Commons committee to revisit the Criminal Code and its definition of when a human life begins. Many saw this motion as an attempt to re-open the debate on abortion laws. Canadian pro-choice groups and the opposition parties would call for Ambrose’s resignation over the matter. In the end, the motion would be defeated 203 to 91.
An online petition would call for her to be removed from her cabinet position over her support of the motion.
Ambrose would state quote:
“I have repeatedly raised concerns about discrimination of girls by sex selection. No law needed, but we need awareness.”
In July 2013, Ambrose was appointed as the Minister of Health.
As minister, she would work with Nadia Murad, a Yazidi refugee, in pushing the House of Commons to label the persecution of the Yazidis people a genocide. She would also help get 1,000 Yazidi women and girls, who had been enslaved by ISIS, brought to Canada.
Ambrose would say quote:
“We’re not going to give up on this, and we are just going to keep at it until we get a result and we got a result.”
In 2015, she would also marry J.P. Veitch, a former rodeo bull rider and a private investment banker. Vietch would speak of which he would prefer politics or bull riding. He would say quote:
Getting on bulls is easier. I’m more comfortable there. Who heckles a bull rider?”
He would add that he had a deep admiration for his wife for the work she did
After the 2015 election, when the Liberals returned to power, Stephen Harper resigned as leader of the Conservatives. On Nov. 5, 2015, she became the interim leader of the Conservative Party
Upon her selection, she would state quote:
“I’m excited that we are going to be moving forward with a strong opposition with confidence and optimism. I am extremely proud to be the new leader of the Opposition.”
As leader, she became the third female leader of the Opposition. She was also the third leader of a major centre-right party, after Kim Campbell and Deborah Grey.
Ambrose would state of her new role as interim leader, quote:
“Canadians are very receptive and ready for women’s leadership because we see it all across the country, but I was really humbled that my caucus felt the same way.”
Ambrose would move into the official residence of the Opposition leader. She would say of her new home, quote:
“This is a beautiful kitchen, but I have absolutely no time to cook. This will probably be where I will have cereal and fruit and that’s about it.”
She would say of her new role as the Leader of the Opposition quote:
“The Opposition has an incredibly important role to play, and the government has an equally important role to play. If we both do those jobs well, we have a functioning democracy.”
As Leader of the Opposition, Ambrose would support an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
As a minister, she was often named the most civil parliamentarian. When she took over as the Leader of the Opposition, she would shush her fellow Conservative MPs when they began to shout at the prime minister while he was speaking.
She would say quote:
“I have a great deal of respect for the office of the Prime Minister. And so, when he gets up to speak, I think that everyone owes him the respect to listen. We have very strong agendas, and that’s great. That is what Parliament is about. But there is no need for anyone to be heckling each other.”
In 2016, Macleans named her the hardest working Parliamentarian. Ambrose would say of her work schedule quote:
Throughout her time in Parliament, Ambrose was known for being an avid lover of the outdoors. She hiked, skied, rode horses and even climbed mountains, including Mount Kilimanjaro. She even earned a certification to skipper sailboats. She would say quote:
“I like to be very active. It is a great contrast from the work that I do.”
One issue for some over Ambrose becoming the new Leader of the Opposition was that she spoke only a little French
In February 2017, she would introduce Bill C-337, which if it had passed, would have required judges in Canada to undergo training on sexual assault law, which involved education on sexual assault myths, stereotypes of victims and the impact of trauma on memory. This was passed unanimously by the House of Commons, but it would expire in the senate due to the Oct. 2019 federal election.
In May 2017, Ambrose announced she would be retiring from the House of Commons after a new leader for the Conservative Party was chosen. In her letter to the Speaker, she would say that it was a privilege to serve, and she hoped that she inspired other women and girls to aspire to public office. She would add quote:
“You are equal, you are worthy, and you can do it.”
After she left federal politics, Ambrose joined the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, which was a Washington D.C. based think tank.
In August 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed her as a member of the NAFTA advisory council.
In 2018, Ambrose, along with Laureen Harper, launched the She Leads Foundation. This organization, based in Alberta, encourages women to run for office and participate in public life.
Information from Macleans, Edmonton Journal, Wikipedia, Calgary Herald, National Post, The Windsor Star, Victoria Times Colonist,
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