For someone who has been out of federal politics since 2017 and has no intentions for running for leader of the Conservative Party, Rona Ambrose remains popular. Even the minority Liberal government likes a bill she crafted.
Before she dropped out of the leadership race, she was favoured by core Conservatives over second choice Peter MacKay, 34 to 19 per cent. Even non-Conservatives favoured Ambrose 25 to 21 per cent according to the Angus Reid Institute.
Last week the Liberals reintroduced a bill she crafted while in opposition.
There’s a number of astonishing things about this.
First, her bill probably has a greater chance of being passed by the current Liberal minority government than by the ruling Conservative government that she was a member of.
Former Prime Minister Steven Harper’s tough-on-crime agenda was championed by Justice Minister Vic Toews who later become a judge in Manitoba. Ambrose’s bill, critical of fossilized judges, would not likely have seen the light of day.
Ambrose originally introduced her private members bill in 2017 in response to a number of high profile sexual-assault cases. In one, Alberta Federal Court Justice Robin Camp asked a rape complainant: “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”
Her bill would ensure that all newly appointed provincial superior court judges undergo training in sexual law and social context.
Ambrose’s private member’s bill passed unanimously in the House of Commons in 2017, but died in the Senate last June as Parliament adjourned before the federal election campaign. Now, as a government bill, senators are obligated to treat it expeditiously.
Conservatives are in the awkward position of supporting a Liberal government bill brought forward by one of their own. Opposing it would be unpopular among Conservatives and supporting it could be seen as being in compliance with the Liberals.
This Conservative ambivalence became evident when NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh proposed fast-tracking the bill and some Conservative MPs opposed it. Singh says there is no reason to delay its passing since the house has already approved it in essence.
The Conservative’s response to Ambrose’s bill was tepid. A spokesman for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said in a tweet that they want to expand the bill to include members of the parole board and parole officers.
Ambrose gave the Conservatives new life as interim leader after their defeat in 2015. Stephen Harper’s icy grip on the throat of the Conservative Party was lifted and MPs began to speak their own minds.
For example, in 2016, Cathy McLeod, Conservative MP for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo stepped out of her role as Opposition Critic to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs when she introduced a private members bill that would require labeling of codes on all foods and drugs that could be read by smart phones.
With the uninspired race for leader of the Conservatives and the voice of Conservatives represented by the parochial premiers Scott Moe, Jason Kenney and Doug Ford, the party seems doomed for the wilderness. They make the tepid Liberal minority government look impressive.
Canada’s dull but productive minority government could last years.