Politician, columnist, public servant
Canadian parliamentarian, 2004-
Canadian cabinet minister, 2006-
Ronalee H. Ambrose
was born on March 15, 1969, in Valleyview, Alberta
. She grew up in Alberta and in Brazil
, where her father worked in the oil industry. Because of her upbringing in Brazil, she is fluent in Portuguese
in addition to English and Spanish
. Her official website also claims that she speaks "intermediate French
Ambrose is currently the Canadian Minister of the Environment, a post to which she was appointed on February 6, 2006. She is a member of the Conservative Party of Canada and was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons on June 28, 2004. Prior to her election she worked as a consultant, columnist and a public servant.
Ambrose earned a political science bachelors degree from the University of Victoria and a masters' degree from the University of Alberta. It was while studying in British Columbia that she met Bruce, the man she would marry after completing her undergraduate degree. Ambrose completed the course-only masters' program at the University of Alberta, a fact that would come back to haunt her in a minor incident after she had been appointed environment minister.
She worked as a consultant on public policy issues after completing her education and, at one point, owned her own consulting company. She worked on policy for the federal Canadian Alliance party and the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. She also wrote a political column for a local Edmonton publication. It was due to her extensive policy background and her lack of overt partisan involvement with either the Canadian Alliance or the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada that she was informally asked to seek the (newly merged PC and CA) Conservative nomination in the riding of Edmonton-Spruce Grove for the 2004 Canadian federal election.
Ambrose agreed to seek the nomination and engaged in a fierce battle for it against eight opponents, eventually beating out a former mayor
and a former deputy minister
. Since Alberta is a Tory
stronghold (the party won all but two of the province's seats in the 2004 election and every seat in the 2006 election), winning the nomination was the hardest part of the electoral process. She defeated her nearest opponent, the Liberal
candidate, by a margin of nearly 18,000 votes. She was appointed the party's shadow cabinet
critic for intergovernmental affairs.
She was touted as one of the party's strongest performers while it was in opposition. As intergovernmental affairs critic, she questioned the government on pertinent issues including the so-called fiscal imbalance. She also served as a critic for other ministries, including social development. And it was as a critic for social development (on the issue of child care) that she first received nationwide attention.
During a particularly heated parliamentary debate on the Liberals' nationwide, state-funded daycare program, Ambrose was engaged in an equally heated exchange with Minister of State for Social Development (and six-time Stanley Cup champion) Ken Dryden. After Dryden had defended his plan by maintaining that state-run daycare was a good thing a few too many times for Ambrose's liking, she responded with "Working women want to make their own choices. We do not need old white guys telling us what to do."
With that one statement, she had accidentally catapulted herself into headlines across the country and made herself the party's surprise expert on child-care issues. When asked about the statement (as she would be, repeatedly), she asserted that she wasn't trying to attack white men of any age group, that she hadn't meant it as a sexist, racist or ageist slur against Dryden and that there were (shock and awe) old white guys in every political party.
Ambrose served as the party's international trade critic after Belinda Stronach defected to the Liberal Party in May of 2005. She also innovated and chaired the Conservative Party's youth caucus, a group of MPs under the age of 40.
After the 38th Canadian parliament was dissolved in November of 2005, Ambrose took an active role in the Conservative Party's national campaign. She was selected to deliver the party's formal response to Liberal Party spokesman Scott Reid's allegation that parents would spend the Conservatives' proposed $1,200 annual tax credit per child under the age of six on "beer and popcorn."
Minister of the Environment
Ambrose was re-elected to parliament with a margin of victory of 29,000 votes in the 2006 Canadian federal election. She was sworn in as Minister of the Environment
, a portfolio with which she had little experience, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper
and the rest of the cabinet on February 6, 2006. She was quick to announce that Canada
could not meet its targets under the Kyoto Accord
, which had been negotiated and signed by the Liberals. She said that the new Conservative government would create a "made-in-Canada" solution to climate change
Her tenure as environment minister has been shaky, particularly since Canada was in the chairing position at the World Conference on Climate Change at the time of the election and her appointment to cabinet. This meant that she was required to present the Conservative government's position -- one that states that the Kyoto Accord is unreasonable -- on the international scene, which her critics claim has damaged Canada's reputation. Ambrose's defence has been that the Liberal government also failed to meet their Kyoto targets -- and that had it been more adept at meeting those targets, the Conservative government would be in a far better position to meet the targets.
Ambrose unveiled her much touted Clean Air Act in the fall of 2006. Despite a great deal of hype, including a formal announcement about how the real announcement would be coming later, it was not well received by environmentalists.
She has also been dogged by a number of seemingly minor controversies during her political career. Ambrose says her political beliefs are grounded in libertarianism, though she does not support same-sex marriage. She was widely criticized for allowing a same-sex marriage supporter to be shouted down during a town hall meeting that she held on the topic in her riding.
She was also forced to order her staff to correct her departmental website after it was revealed that, contrary to what her official biography claimed, she did not write a thesis as part of her masters' degree. The incorrect biography had appeared on her official website and the Conservative Party's official website as far back as 2004; the error occurred after the "official" biography was written by someone who used the biography on her website (from when she first sought the Edmonton-Spruce Grove nomination) as a reference. The original biography claimed that her areas of concentration were in digital government and the privacy issues pertaining thereto. Any subsequent biographies claimed that her thesis dealt with such areas. It is believed that she became aware of the inaccuracy after the Globe and Mail printed a semi-profile of her drawing on information from the inaccurate biography.
Ambrose has been touted as a possible leadership candidate, though she claims that she is not a career politician and plans to pursue a PhD in political science after leaving partisan politics.
Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
Ambrose was appointed Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
on January 4, 2007. She had been rumoured to be on her way out of the environment portfolio after the Clean Air Act was more or less pronounced dead on arrival
. She was also appointed President of the Privy Council
at this time.
Her tenure was not marked by any substantial controversy and was not particularly newsworthy.
Minster of Labour
Ambrose was appointed minister of labour in a cabinet shuffle that took place after the Conservatives won the 2008 Canadian federal election.