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Rona Ambrose announces she won't run for Conservative leadership: 'I have really struggled with the decision'

OTTAWA — Rona Ambrose, widely seen as the presumptive front-runner if she ran for the Conservative leadership, has decided she’s not entering the race.

“I have really struggled with the decision to return to political life,” she said in a video released Wednesday afternoon.

“I loved my 13 years in public service as an MP, minister and especially as leader of this great party. But right now, I am focused on making a difference through the private sector. Creating policy and advocating for our energy sector to create jobs. And my work continues to ensure all judges in Canada receive sexual assault law training. And the truth is, I love being back in Alberta.”

A source with knowledge of the decision said Ambrose had wrestled with the choice right up until Wednesday afternoon. The source said Ambrose isn’t closing the door on a return to politics at some point down the road, but felt this wasn’t the right time.

In a written statement alongside the video, Ambrose urged the party to “choose a strong, compassionate person to lead us – who supports ALL families; a leader who unleashes the potential of the private sector and Canadian ingenuity through low taxes and less regulation; who defends universal human rights and principled foreign policy.”

“But more than anything we need to choose a leader who understands the job is about SERVING – serving ALL Canadians and making THEIR lives, THEIR country and THEIR world a better place to live,” she wrote. “I know we’ll choose a good leader and I’ll be there to support HER…or him!”

Ambrose had been strongly urged by many in the Conservative Party to run, including by caucus members. Party sources said she would have had senior organizers quickly join her campaign and would have had little trouble raising money.

The enthusiasm for her candidacy largely stemmed from her performance as interim leader after Stephen Harper resigned in 2015; many MPs felt she skilfully managed internal issues and represented the party well in public. Conservatives also liked the idea of having a female leader from Western Canada lining up against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next election.

Ambrose resigned from politics in the summer of 2017, shortly after Andrew Scheer was elected as leader. She had represented the Edmonton suburb of Spruce Grove.

With Ambrose ruling herself out, the party still has at least one other woman in the running: Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu, who has only been in parliament since 2015 but has extensive business experience as a chemical engineer.

Other publicly declared candidates include former cabinet minister Peter MacKay, rookie MP Derek Sloan, social conservative candidate Richard Décarie, and Alberta businessman Rick Peterson. MPs Pierre Poilievre and Erin O’Toole have campaign teams are expected to announce their entry shortly.

Candidates have until February 27 to enter the race. To stay in the race until the final ballot, candidates will need to pay $300,000 (of which $100,000 is a refundable deposit) and collect signatures from 3,000 party members in at least seven provinces. The leadership convention takes place June 27 in Toronto.

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