What’s Next For Rona Ambrose
Being a politician isn’t for everyone. If the time demands aren’t enough to scare you away (16+ hours a day) then maybe having your entire life under a microscope will. Factor in missed meals, unsolicited criticism and constant scrutiny and you’ve got a job description that would make most people run away… quickly. But not Rona Ambrose.
The Albertan leader of the opposition and political heavyweight didn’t just accept the challenge of being a politician; she thrived throughout her storied political career. Ambrose served Canadians for 13 years in various capacities and through managing different portfolios. She is a strong, passionate and caring public servant who advocated for all Canadians but especially for the rights of girls and women.
Shifting from the public to private sector at the Wilson Institute will keep Ambrose involved with Canada’s future as she works on NAFTA renegotiations. The political career may be coming to a close, but her passion for and commitment to Canada remain. So not only did Ambrose accept the challenge of being a politician, she owned it and will continue to be a strong voice for Canada. That is something that is not only commendable, but also extraordinary.
Faces had the chance to sit down with Rona Ambrose to learn about her past, proudest accomplishments and plans for the future.
How did you first get involved in politics? What attracted you to becoming a public servant?
I first got involved not long before I decided to run. I wasn’t a partisan and I wasn’t really a political person. I was more of a policy person, and decided that this was the right fit for me. I wanted to make change through the democratic process and being a Member of Parliament, and ultimately a Minister, allows you to advocate and make change. So I did it.
Describe a typical day as a politician.
No two days are alike. It’s 24-7, non-stop, fast-paced, intense and pressure-filled, but it’s very rewarding. It really is non-stop adrenaline that takes a toll and can be taxing, but ultimately it is very rewarding.
What are most people surprised to learn about your typical day?
Most people are surprised to learn that a typical workday could be 16 hours. You’re up really early to try and squeeze in a workout and actually squeeze in breakfast. Things like exercising, eating, visiting family and friends just go out of the window because there are just so many demands on your time. There’s a constant battle for work-life balance. People may be surprised to learn that you often don’t have time to eat. It just never stops.
What is your proudest accomplishment as a politician? And what is your biggest regret?
I’m most proud of the work that I did to support women and girls. I was able to pass, with unanimous support of the House of Commons, a resolution to take to the United Nations that passed there to create the International Day of the Girl. This has become a global movement to fight for girls’ rights in countries where they have none. I’m very proud of that accomplishment.
I’m also proud of the bill I’m working to get passed right now in the House of Commons. This bill will mandate sexual assault law training for anyone who wants to become a judge in Canada. It’s designed to make sure that the court system treats victims more fairly.
As for my biggest regret, I’m one of those people who lives without regrets. I’m a big believer in any failure or challenge in life is a teaching moment. I’m really big on taking risks and trying new things and if things don’t work then try something else. I really have no regrets.
You are a role model to many across Canada, but especially women. What advice do you have for women who are considering running for public office?
Do it. Just do it. Put your name on the ballot. I know it’s a big decision, but if you are passionate about something and want to make change then this is a great place to make. Ottawa and the House of Commons belong to you so just get involved.
When I talk with young women many of them feel that they aren’t prepared. They feel they need to get an MBA or a law degree, and work for 20 years before entering politics. But if they are passionate about running for office then that’s all it takes. If you have the passion to make change in your society then this is a great place to do it. Passion is so important because it’s a calling and not a job. You can’t pad your CV to get here – it’s not about that – it’s about having passion to make a change.
I’m sure that transitioning away from politics wasn’t an easy decision. What attracted you to moving back to the private sector?
It’s time for me. I’ve been here for 13 years and I have had remarkable opportunity to contribute to public life. I’m very proud of my accomplishments, proud of the experience, but it is just time.
I realize I’m young enough to have a whole new career. It’s a great time to make that break – to leave public life and take all of these wonderful experiences with me and do new things. I’m really excited to make the transition to the private sector.
You’ll be lending your experience and expertise to a D.C. based think tank. Tell us a little about this new challenge.
I will be working in the private sector, but I will continue my passion and work for public policy and helping contribute to issues that matter to Canada. This is why I decided to join the Wilson Institute and the Canada Institute in particular. We are going to be doing a big project on the renegotiation of NAFTA, and I want to help. This project will be one of the biggest challenges for our economy. There is a lot on the line, and I want to be supportive and help. I am excited about being able to continue contributing to that dialogue and conversation about what we need to do to keep Canada strong.
What will be the biggest change moving from public office to the private sector?
Waking up in the morning, putting on no makeup, going to the grocery store and just having privacy (laughs). Although I have to say, I have been lucky to go anywhere in Canada and be recognized by people who are wonderful, friendly and kind. But the bottom will be just not having the demands on your time that come with being a politician. I’ll be able to plan ahead, have lunch with friends and enjoy a better work-life balance. Of course I’ll continue to work because I love what I do, but I think I’ll have a lot more life in life (laughs).
You are an avid outdoorswoman with a mountain climbing record that includes Kilimanjaro. Any other adventures planned in the near future?
I do! I’m really excited that I’m going on a two week Artic expedition in August. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. Laureen Harper and I, who is a really close of friend of mine, are doing this together. It’s been an item on our both of our bucket lists.
We’re going with an adventure company called One Ocean. It will be amazing because the Vancouver Aquarium will be on board with their team, which includes biologists. There will be researching happening on the vessel examining the impact of plastics on the environment, climate change and more. We’re going to be stopping at many locations along the Northwest Passage and eventually end our trip in Greenland. We’ll have opportunities to hike, kayak and learn more about the North. It’s going to be amazing!
On your Facebook page, you describe yourself as a tea drinker. What’s your favourite kind? Where in Ottawa can you find the best cup of tea?
You know what? I’m a big black tea drinker. Just give me a hot cup of Red Rose or English Breakfast in the morning and maybe three or four more throughout the day. But I also love David’s Tea, and so do the kids. I can’t help but go in there and want to taste and smell everything they have! They have flavours of tea that you could never have imagined. We also like to make iced teas out of David’s Tea.
Although I’ve been having a nice cup of tea at my desk for the last 13 years I haven’t had a chance to explore Ottawa too much to find the best cup of tea. But I look forward to being able to do that now.
You are actively involved with many charitable organizations. What are some of the organizations you’re currently supporting and where can people learn more about them?
I have been really active with the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre. it’s a one-of-a-kind advocacy center for children who have experienced sexual abuse. It’s a remarkable place, which is now being replicated in different locations across Canada. It’s far and above anything you’ll find in the United States and even around the world. We are really lucky to have this organization. Sheldon is the driving force and advocate of the organization, and also a very close friend of mine.
Another group is Planned International Canada, which is the organization that I worked with to create the International Day of the Girl. They do work around the world on girl’s rights. I’m going to continue to work with them after I leave public office.
I have also worked with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection in Winnipeg. That is really tough work that these young people do. They deal with child abuse and exploitation online. They work closely with the RCMP to help these children, and they take down websites and put people behind bars who are exploiting children across the country. The perpetrators are making the abuse available online, which victimizes the child again because it’s online forever unless it’s taken down. So that’s another very important organization.
Any plans for a book?
Yes. I’m collaborating on a children’s book with a publisher called CitizenKid (Kid’s Can Press). It’s about girls’ rights, girls finding their voice and using it to make their community and the world a better place. It’s obviously focused on girls who are disadvantaged. It’s inspired by the work that I did on International Day of the Girl, but it’s hopefully going to be a story about a little girl and a teaching tool for girls’ rights. I’m really excited about it because I haven’t done anything like this before.