Friday, January 15, 2016

Will Kevin O'Leary become "Canada's Trump"?

"Yes, Mr. Bond, I do believe I can take over Canada."

The news so far in this latter week has been all-a-chatter about Kevin O'Leary. First it was for his attempt to buy the resignation of the Premier of Alberta in a coup-d'etat attempt reminiscent of the Business Plot, if not in style then at least in its ideological underpinnings; then for his toe-dipping into the Conservative leadership race immediately after.

This prompted the guffaws of some people, the consternation of others, while yet more quietly stoked the flames. Kevin O'Leary has been inspired in his political endeavours by his fellow entrepreneurial traveller in the United States, Donald Trump, who is currently wiping the floor of the Republican Party with establishment candidates who are far more experienced in the ways of governance than he. Could the same situation come true for O'Leary?

Now, I'm not saying O'Leary is a bigot like Trump acts. I very much doubt he is in his heart, but then again I also doubt Trump is as well - after all, Trump is a showman first and foremost, just like O'Leary. His appeal to the supposedly besieged base of America is just that, an appeal, a show of comraderie designed to get the Donald to where the Donald needs to be, but I doubt the man holds any serious convictions aside from money and ego.

I view O'Leary in much the same way. He's a showman, and quite good at it. He's a straight talkin', no-holds-barred capitalist who values access to money over anything else, and isn't afraid to tackle those politicians (spit!) who get in the way of it.

Given that overriding goal, I can easily see O'Leary parroting Trump in style, if not exactly in substance - up until a certain point. He will bang the drum of economic failure, blame it on Trudeau, Notley, Wynne and so on ("liberal economic failures"), and along with that anti-establishment, anti-politician movement will come the less attractive segments of society. O'Leary, if he wanted to continue being the head of said movement, will have to cater eventually, and I have no doubts he would.

The question is then would he ever find such a movement in Canada to be the head of? We're still two years (probably) out from a Conservative leadership race, even longer from a federal election, so much can change - but currently I would say, no.

Trump's rise was born out of the general frustrations of much of the lower middle class US, most of them white with little if any formal education and probably a lot of household debt and stress. They feel a general malaise in their lives and project that on America writ large, and Trump's appeals about "making America great again" are as much about the country's foundering, if still steady, status as the world superpower as it is the personal lives of millions of Americans. Trump is about fixing things, no bullshit, no pussyfooting around sensitive topics, just fix it - that is his appeal.

In Canada, we don't have a similar group for O'Leary to take hold of, not at the moment anyway. The low price of oil putting thousands out of work, the sky-high cost of living in Ontario for homeowners, and the fears of a coming economic crash could work to build this group up. Could progressive politicians stop O'Leary if it did, considering how many are currently in power? I'm not so sure.

However, the main thing stopping O'Leary would not be the Liberals or NDP, but the Conservative Party itself. Establishment Conservatives would probably freak out at the mere thought of O'Leary winning, and the implications of it (especially if Trump falters in the coming months). They would have the advantage though, as O'Leary would be competing in a much different field than Trump or Rob Ford - a closed-door party convention where committed, paid members vote, rather than the more open primaries and caucuses seen in the US, or the wide-open field of Toronto's municipal elections. Conservative members would be deciding who wins, and I doubt the CPC is looking at replicating the Supporters category the Liberals had in 2013 (especially if an O'Leary or Ford is in the field).

So, Trump madness is probably not coming to Canada in the form of Kevin O'Leary, and if it does it will likely be quickly shut out by the still-robust Conservative establishment. Things can always change of course, but I don't think we need to worry for now.

For now.


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  2. It would be the best publicity Dragons Den could get. With all those attack ads with clips from the show featuring O'Leary saying I won't invest unless you outsource all the jobs. Apparently Vietnam is his choice now because Chinese labour is too expensive.

    1. That might be point though! Maybe his leadership race will be a new season.