Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose wrapped up her last question period in the Commons Tuesday to a chorus of tributes from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and many others, who lauded the retiring MP for her years of service.
Fellow MPs noted her success as the interim leader of the Conservative Party, as well as her performance as Opposition Leader — and her ability to perform those tasks with intellectual vigour while remaining caring and empathetic.
She was singled out by all party leaders for her efforts to move women’s issues forward, including her recent private member’s bill, which just passed a vote in the House, requiring judges to undergo special training to adjudicate sexual assault cases.
Ambrose has “not merely filled the role of political leader, but [she] has truly owned it, and made it her own and dedicated herself fully to one of our democracy’s most demanding jobs,” Trudeau said.
“Serving as an interim leader is a tough job that the leader of the opposition has embraced with the confidence, commitment to service, that impresses everyone who has the privilege of working with her, for her and opposite her.”
“And throughout it all she has remained true to her own values. Something we saw earlier this year when she introduced a private member’s bill that, once passed, will require federal judges to undergo comprehensive training in sexual assault law.”
“I hope she knows that thanks to the leadership she has shown here she is leaving this House a much better place,” Trudeau said, garnering a standing ovation in the House.
The tributes began with Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen rising to honour the woman who defeated her in the vote to temporarily lead the Tories after the last election, reminding MPs that Ambrose was the youngest women ever appointed to cabinet.
“When the member for Sturgeon River — Parkland took over the role as leader of the Conservative Party, it was as interim leader, but never once did she treat this position as a placeholder of merely a fill in.”
Bergen noted that Ambrose led, and unified, a Conservative caucus through what could have been a difficult time and joked that it’s obvious Ambrose was doing a good job because there were members looking to change party rules so she could run for permanent leader of the party.
“Our interim leader has always had a heart to help those that are less fortunate, she is someone who cares deeply about justice and mercy and her work on so many files in this regard is a testament to her undying dedication to justice being served, but being served in a compassionate way, especially for victims who are too often forgotten,” Bergen said.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair called Ambrose “extraordinary” and thanked her for the “honour, integrity and passion she has brought to this House over the years.”
“She will be missed as an MP and as a great leader of the Conservative Party — my personal favourite for the record,” Mulcair said.
“I can say that, without a doubt, the leadership of the member for Sturgeon River — Parkland, in this House, has certainly gained the respect of all of the New Democratic caucus,” Mulcair said.
Xavier Barsalou-Duval, of the Bloc Québécios, said that Ambrose was a “breath of fresh air” and her decision to step down from federal politics was like the House of Commons losing a jewel.
“The House of Commons is losing a great parliamentarian. Obviously we rarely share her political positions but we’ve always admired her class, her energy and her conviction. The Opposition leader is a great lady,” he said.
“She was the living example of unity for her party after the last election and in this regard she has served very well.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May reflected back to the time when Ambrose was the environment minister, and May was the executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, as the two grappled with the Kyoto Protocol.
“Its a tribute to her personal characteristics of fairness and kindness and just plain likability that I couldn’t’ help liking her as we discussed the Kyoto Protocol.”
“I can’t remember a single time in the last 11 years when I haven’t thought well of her as a person, even if we disagreed.”