Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Conservatives Choose Alberta MP Rona Ambrose as New Interim Leader

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Conservatives Choose Alberta MP Rona Ambrose as New Interim Leader

Article excerpt

Rona Ambrose voted interim Tory leader

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OTTAWA - Alberta MP Rona Ambrose stepped into Stephen Harper's leadership shoes Thursday -- albeit on an interim basis -- as the Conservatives gathered for the first time since last month's election demoted them to the official Opposition.

Ambrose, who served as health minister in the last Parliament, had campaigned on a promise to bring a respectful and civil tone to debate in the House of Commons.

"I'm excited that we are going to be moving forward with a strong opposition with confidence and optimism," she said, flanked by fellow Conservative caucus members chanting her name in support.

"I am extremely proud to be the new leader of the Opposition."

Ambrose, 46, was first elected to the House of Commons in 2004 and went on to serve in several cabinet posts under Harper.

Harper addressed the start of the meeting Thursday, speaking for about 10 minutes and expressing regret at the party's loss but also talking hopefully about its future. He then left for the remainder of the discussion.

The mood in the room was civil and positive throughout, several current and former MPs said, with Harper receiving several standing ovations.

"Everybody credits Stephen Harper with having given our country tremendous leadership through difficult times in the past decade and people are very proud to have served with him and to have campaigned with him," said Peter Van Loan, the former government House leader.

"And I think he is going to go down in Canadian political history as one of our best prime ministers ever."

Harper, who will continue to serve as an MP for the riding of Calgary Heritage, was set to return to his hometown of Calgary, Alta., on Thursday night and is expected to largely take a back seat in his caucus going forward.

There were eight candidates in total vying to replace him. The job comes with an $80,100 bump in salary, a car and driver and the residence of the official leader of the Opposition -- Stornoway.

Other contenders included Alberta MP Mike Lake; Diane Finley, Rob Nicholson and Erin O'Toole from Ontario; and Manitoba's Candice Bergen. Calgary MP Michelle Rempel and Quebec's Denis Lebel ran on a joint ticket. …

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