2 min

Rona Ambrose, champion of public transport

It’s been a very long time since we’ve heard from the oft-ensembly challenged Rona Ambrose. In fact, I don’t think we heard from her once while she was Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, but in this government, that portfolio is pretty much handled by the PMO, so that’s not a big surprise. Some would go so far as to say that her most important job in the previous Parliament was to sit behind Harper on camera and nod with whatever he said in the House – a role that has since been handed to Lisa Raitt (of the boxy jackets).

But Ambrose is now the Minister of Labour, and this transit strike in Ottawa has finally caught her attention. You see, because OC Transpo busses also cross the river to the Gatineau-side, they become a trans-boundary system, which makes them susceptible to federal jurisdiction. And here’s where Ambrose steps in.

She’s decided to invoke her powers as Minister to let the striking transit workers vote on the City’s latest offer, even though the union has rejected it. And in her statement, Ambrose especially raised the concerns of seniors in this transit strike – because you know that they’re a voting constituency that the Conservatives have been targeting heavily, even going so far as making Senator Marjorie LeBreton a Secretary of State for seniors in the last Parliament.

The striking workers may very well reject the offer, even if our illustrious mayor is convinced that they’ll accept it. The union is “very, very disappointed to say the least” in the move, which undermines the labour movement in their opinion. Not that this should surprise anyone considering the proclivities of the mayor and the current federal government. This is the same government who thought it would be a good idea to take away the ability of the public service to strike for a period of two years, as outlined in the now-discredited “Fall economic update.” Their labour cred isn’t all that shiny.

Ambrose says she wants the talks to resume as soon as possible. Mind you, it’s been nearly a month, in a month of snow and ice storms and where one of the most important nights of the year for transit – New Year’s Eve – was left out. And if she was really all that worried about seniors being unable to get around, you’d have thought that she could have done something about this sooner than now, given that it’s been a fairly blustery winter, and I’m sure that many of those seniors would have liked to have been able to do their Xmas shopping.

So why now? That’s what I’d like to know.