OTTAWA — Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose announced the members of her shadow cabinet Friday, including a defeated MP from Atlantic Canada who has been tapped to examine how party support unravelled in Eastern Canada.
Ambrose and the Tories are seeking a way forward now that they are back to official Opposition status in the Commons.
Scott Armstrong, who lost to Liberal Bill Casey in the Nova Scotia riding of Cumberland-Colchester, will assist with Conservative efforts to rebuild support in the Atlantic provinces.
The Conservatives and New Democrats were shut out on the East Coast when the Liberals swept Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island on Oct. 19.
Armstrong will occasionally travel to Ottawa for shadow cabinet meetings, but he will primarily be based in Atlantic Canada to listen to issues there.
Longtime Conservative MP Lisa Raitt, who will serve as the party’s finance critic, says it’s important to include an East Coast perspective.
“I think it makes a lot of sense to have a voice of Atlantic Canada … as part of what we are trying to do,” Raitt said. “You can’t ignore what happened east of Quebec.”
Raitt also said she is looking forward to what the Conservatives can accomplish.
“I think it is exciting,” she said. “We’re going to do our job. We were asked to do our jobs by Canadians to be official Opposition and we are going to do it.”
In the days ahead, the Tories plan to press the new Liberal government for specifics on its plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in less than six weeks.
It will also continue to urge the government to rethink its plan to pull six Canadian CF-18s out of the U.S.-led coalition attacking militant positions in Iraq and Syria.
“Once again, we are calling on the Liberal government to reverse its decision,” Ambrose said in a statement.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he will not backtrack on the plan to pull the CF-18s, but he has promised an increase in the number of ground troops used to train local forces fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The Tories also plan to press the Grits on their pledge to run deficits of up to $10 billion a year for the next three years.
“As the official Opposition, it is our duty to ask the government some tough questions and I have a few for the finance minister,” Raitt said.
“Given today’s fiscal update, is the government going to follow through on all of the commitments in the platform — are you going to stop at the $10-billion deficit that’s been projected and how much debt are you planning on adding?”
Ambrose, who will also serve as critic for the status of women, has also created some new positions, including a critic for matters relating to maternal, child and newborn health. This will be tackled by Alberta MP Mike Lake.
Other veteran MPs who will play a key role in the shadow cabinet include Tory Clement, who will take on foreign affairs, and Ed Fast who will serve as environment critic.