Rona Ambrose says she won’t run to succeed Andrew Scheer as the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.
In a Facebook post this afternoon, the former interim Conservative leader said she “struggled” with the decision to stay out.
“It is humbling to be considered at all — because I love our party, I love the people in it and I love our country,” she said.
Thanking her supporters for their “messages of encouragement,” she said that she remains focused on her work in the private sector. “And the truth is, I love being back in Alberta,” she added in the Facebook post.
“I know we will choose a strong, compassionate person to lead us — who supports ALL families. I know we’ll choose a good leader and I’ll be there to support HER…or him!”
Ambrose’s comment about “all families” might be read as a comment on Scheer, who was dogged by questions about his beliefs regarding LGBTQ rights — and his refusal to march in a Pride parade — throughout the fall election campaign.
Conservative strategist Tim Powers told CBC News he’s not convinced the comment was directed at Scheer, and suggested instead that Ambrose was warning the entire party that it’s “too tribal.”
“This leadership race needs a diversity of voices,” he said. “I think what she means is that … whether you’re a heterosexual couple, a gay couple, you’re a single parent, you’re rich, you’re poor, you should feel welcome in the Conservative Party.
“Andrew Scheer is irrelevant … I don’t mean that unkindly, but he’s not part of the equation. He’s the interim leader. His time is done.”
Ambrose’s former chief of staff, Garry Keller, said she probably felt she needed to make her intentions clear to those Conservatives still thinking about their options.
“Obviously she spent a lot of time thinking about it over the Christmas break and early January,” said Keller, now vice president of the business advisory firm StrategyCorp. “You know, people are starting to make decisions on who to support for the leadership, including the MPs, and … now is probably the right time to make that decision once and for all.”
A source close to Ambrose tells CBC News she’s not ruling out a return to politics at some future point. In the meantime, her announcement may open up the race to prospective candidates who were waiting to see which way she would jump.
Widely seen as a polished and effective performer close to the centre of the political spectrum, Ambrose was viewed by some Conservative supporters as the party’s best shot to take down the Liberals in the next general election.
Her decision is certain to disappoint some. Former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall personally urged her to run; he told CBC News earlier this month that Ambrose “checks the boxes, in terms of policy, in terms of electability.
“And then finally, she’s from Western Canada,” Wall said. “I think she knows where I stand on her potential candidacy. We haven’t spoken since, I guess, a week or so just after the federal election. So it’s been a long time since we’ve even chatted, other than me throwing her name around, maybe irresponsibly, in the media and social media.”
Ambrose formally resigned her House of Commons seat in 2017 after serving as a Conservative MP for 13 years.
She represented the Edmonton riding of Sturgeon River-Parkland (formerly Edmonton-Spruce Grove) and served in a number of ministerial positions under former prime minister Stephen Harper.
Before taking on the temporary leadership of the party in the fall of 2015, Ambrose served as the minister for environment, labour, health and the status of women, among other cabinet posts.