01.19.2016 01:20 AM

In this week’s Hill Times: Trump North?

Kevin O’Leary wants to be leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

You know Kevin O’Leary, don’t you? In the early days of the new year, he offered up a million dollars — just like Dr. Evil! — if Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley resigned. O’Leary didn’t offer to give the million to Notley herself, naturally, because he knew that would be against the law. Under Sec. 119 of the Criminal Code, it’s an indictable offence to directly or indirectly “corruptly give or offer” to, say, a premier, “any money, valuable consideration” in exchange for something to be “done, or omitted or to be done, by that person in their official capacity.”

Offering a million dollars to Alberta’s premier to step down, then, is a criminal offence, one that could win O’Leary up to 14 years in prison. So he didn’t offer it to her. He offered it to “Canadian energy companies.” Nicely done.

It may not have been a prima facie crime, but it certainly was a prima facie publicity stunt, one designed to get us all talking about Kevin O’Leary. And it worked, big time.

Notley should have ignored him, of course, but she didn’t. She shot back, saying: “The last time a group of wealthy businessmen tried to tell Alberta voters how to vote, I ended up becoming premier.” It was a good line, but it kicked the story for a few more days, and gave O’Leary what he most desired, which was yet more airtime.

Pundit panels and newspaper columnists had barely finished debating the vast import of O’Leary’s gambit when he struck again. Appearing on CBC — the camera loves him, you see, but not nearly as much as he loves the camera — O’Leary said: “I thought at some point, someone is going to say to me, ‘If you can be such a critic, why don’t you do better? Why don’t you try it?’ I thought to myself, hmmm, maybe I should.”

He added: “I’m never going to run for the NDP. They don’t even like me.” Ho, ho.

I suspect that millions of Canadians don’t, either. He’s not Canada’s Donald Trump, as some have called him — he isn’t nearly as rich, or nearly as significant — but he would do to the Conservative Party what Trump is presently doing to the Republican Party. Namely, destroy it.

Unfortunately for conservatives, there is a tendency among conservatives to fall head over heels for rich guys. In the U.S., they loved wacko billionaire Ross Perot, which helped propel Bill Clinton into the White House. Ditto vulture capitalist Mitt Romney, who right-wingers loved, too, and who kept Barack Obama where he was — in power.

In Canada, we’re not immune. Smart conservative folks knew Rob Ford was a human shrapnel machine long before he became Toronto’s mayor in 2010 — but they supported him anyway, mainly because he was rich. If he’s rich, he must be smart, right?

Well, no, and we tender as evidence Trump and O’Leary, your honour. Neither man has ever held elected office, and the only policy priorities they have are what they see in the bathroom mirror every morning. They say whatever mean, rotten, cruel thing that pops into their powdered heads. And they equate headlines with support. But they shouldn’t. Notoriety isn’t the same thing as popularity.

O’Leary, like Trump, loves to be quoted. He has called some black women “colorful cockroaches.” He has called an opponent “an Indian giver with a forked tongue.” He says “it’s fantastic” that half the world’s population lives in poverty. He says unions “should be destroyed with evil,” whatever that means. He says anyone in a union should “be thrown in jail.” And on and on. You get the picture.

Because he has almost as much money as he has ego, expect to read that retainer-hungry political consultants are signing up for O’Leary’s nascent political venture. Expect to see opinion columns, here and there, suggesting that he’s exactly what the defeated Conservative Party needs — a brash, outspoken outsider, beholden to no one, blah, blah, blah. Expect to be hearing more about the Bay Street Buffoon.

And, in the highly unlikely event Kevin O’Leary (a) runs and (b) wins, expect this too: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in power until the end of time.

Kevin O’Leary isn’t what the Conservative Party needs.

But he’s what the Liberal Party wants.


  1. Eric Weiss says:

    He craves headlines and notoriety, so you give him another headline and presumably more notoriety?

  2. Don Johnson says:

    Exactly. I kind of think the world is going mad. If it hasn’t already gotten there, and is just doubling back for more.

  3. Peter says:

    Given the current Liberal leader, it’s a bit much to claim the Cons “fall head over heels for rich guys”. I’ll trade you Dief, Clark, Campbell, Day, Harper and even Mulroney before he won for the Trudeaus, Martin, Stronach, Turner, etc. But you are right that a minority occasionally gravitates to these brash, self-made business types who think their success is transferable to public life. Peter Pocklington come to mind. If he runs, I expect we’ll hear platitudes about how government should be run on business principles, young people should establish businesses. etc., and then he’ll run out of things to say and become a bit of an embarrassing caricature. The equivalent on the left is intellectuals and sometimes prize-winning scientists who think they know how to completely redesign society. But I’m not buying the analogy to Trump. There are significant differences between the two political cultures and the idealization and idolizing of business success is one. Plus have you watched the guy on Dragon’s Den? There are so many examples of his arrogant, insulting meanness the attack ads would write themselves.

  4. Again.

    I’m out.

    If the Conservatives want a “dragon” go go recurit Brett Wilson or Arlene what’s her name. or even the Boston Pizza guy.

  5. That should read recruit. Ugh. Early mornings.

  6. doconnor says:

    “And they equate headlines with support.”

    Rob Ford won election as mayor and kept a lot of support despite his many scandals. Trump maintains a significant lead.

    Most conservative leaders who try and sound intelligent despite the fact that their claims are unsupported by evidence like Harper and Romney, but Trump and Ford are in the category of not being able to complete a coherent sentence. I suspect O’Leary will be in the former category.

    I don’t think a Trump or Ford could win a leadership race in Canada. They tend to appeal to low information voters, and the 1% of Canadians who are party members are among the most informed voters.

    “Because he has almost as much money as he has ego, expect to read that retainer-hungry political consultants are signing up for O’Leary’s nascent political venture.”

    Looks like a leadership candidates is allowed to donate a whole $25,000 to themselves. Is that enough for political consultants? Even Canadian ones?

    • Peter says:

      Ah yes, those “low information voters” are just incapable of making evidence-based decisions. Frankly, I don’t understand why we even let them vote.

      Do you have any sense of what a slave to pompous scientism you are?

      • doconnor says:

        Most of them are capable of making evidence-based decisions, if they have enough information, but most people don’t follow the news as closely as we do.

        Thanks for the sig!

        A slave to pompous scientism

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      Take a look at Sanders’s platform. “Low information voters” are precisely whom it’s meant to attract, and indeed whom are lining up to support this unabashedly rabid socialist. The only things this clown hasn’t promised yet is a three day work week and root beer in every fountain.

      And you guys think Trump is a stupid crank???

    • CuJoYYC says:

      “… 1% of Canadians who are party members are among the most informed voters.”

      Have you listened to Wildrose Party members and their MLAs? Ditto for the Jason Kenney supporting PC members (although they’re probably also WRP members in spite of the constitutions of both parties). What about the CPC members who support and are campaigning for the likes of Brad Trost, Chris Alexander, Kellie Leitch, …

  7. Jon Powers says:

    He won’t run. He can’t afford the pay cut.

  8. Pipes says:

    He should start as a School Trustee like everyone else………………yawn……

  9. Al in Cranbrook says:

    An aside: From the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” dept…


    How’s that international reputation thingy working out for you so far, eh?

  10. Matt says:

    “But he’s what the Liberal Party wants.”


    When Trudeau was selected Liberal leader, I’m sure that’s exactly what the Conservatives wanted.

    Didn’t work out the way they hoped. You never know what could happen.

    • Kelly says:

      The difference is that people LIKE Trudeau, and always did. O’Leary…not so much. He will ensure that the conservatives are the 3rd or 4th choice of 90 percent of voters after ranked ballot is introduced.

  11. Ted H says:

    62 individuals, the majority being in the USA now have as much wealth as the rest of the world combined. That is the result of a few decades of mainly conservative policies being enacted almost worldwide. That is what they work for, that is their main purpose and once again proves that saying “there are two kinds of Republicans/Conservatives, millionaires and suckers”.

    • SG says:

      The stat you’re thinking of is that the top 1% (not just the top 62 individuals) now have more wealth than the bottom 99% combined. That milestone was reached just last year.

      As I’ve said elsewhere, something has got to give.

      • Ted H says:

        That’s what I said Matt, they have as much as the rest of the world, that means 50/50 to me and while the 1% is commonly thrown around, I did recently read (can’t remember exactly where) that 62 individuals had that kind of wealth.

        The old landed class in England were called the Tories, which is a term currently used for Conservatives in Canada and the UK. As democracy developed in England they lost a lot of their traditional power to the business class, (Whigs = Liberals). But at heart, they are only comfortable with an Oligarchy such as they historically had and even though in Canada and the US there is no hereditary nobility or landed class the Conservatives and Republicans still work to restore this Oligarchy, government by the wealthy.

        They campaign on values, patriotism, religion, suspicion of big government (because big government can limit their power) and anti-union sentiment (because unions can resist their power) in order to appeal to voters among the general populace because their true goals, restoration of an Oligarchy would never be accepted. As such they are really pulling the wool over the eyes of most of the “suckers” who support them and will never share in the wealth they hope to realize by advancing their policy. The ever increasing wealth of the 1% or the gang of 62, however you want to look at it is a direct result of the success of conservative policies throughout the Western world in particular over the past 20 or 30 years. They have prospered while everyone else and most social programs have declined. If you are not a millionaire and you are voting for Conservative/Republican/Right Wing political parties, you are voting against your own self interest.

  12. Aongasha says:

    The kind of pile-on from the media particularly the CBC is funny as hell and of course ironic. They loved him when he was co-hosting the Exchange show with Amanda Lang and on Dragon’s Den – now? Not so muc, hypocrisy your name is main stream media – may you keep on losing customers and jobs. It’s also quite a bit of fun watching the Left/Progressives go a little bit nuts over this – especially in view of the fact he’s a contributor to the Democrats and Obama in the US. What is disappointing though is the attitude of the usual suspect from the elitist world of hogtown and elsewhere, that would deny a Canadian the right ot run for office because he/she personally offends them. Suck it up babies – you don’t own the world just yet.

    • Sherry says:

      You’re clearly missing the point. Lefties/progressives would be delighted to see Mr. O’Leary take a serious run at the Conservative leadership. I’m not sure how the CBC is “piling on”; they’ve given him a great deal of freebie airtime since he’s started to muse upon his aspirations to “make Canada great again”, lol. No one wants to deny him a chance to run, although he’d likely have to move back to Canada from Boston, where he has resided for lo, these past two decades, no less….”proud Canadian” that he trumpets himself to be notwithstanding. Go, Kev!

      • Reality.Bites says:

        What was that slogan again? “He didn’t come home for you.”

        Harper had to compromise to become leader and prime minister. Gone was the opposition to bilingualism – in its place was fluent French. Gone was the Alberta firewall. I don’t see O’Leary making the compromises needed to become leader.

  13. Lyndon Dunkley says:

    The Big Debate for Western democracies as we stumble through the start of the 21st century will be the type of leadership we elect for ourselves. As we face growing economic uncertainty, will we veer towards those who promise to take care of us by expanding government and supposedly taking more of the “undeserved gains” of the successful or will we support leadership that will at least try to limit government and provide the framework where the largest percentage possible will succeed? Do people want a chance at making $75k a year or do they prefer a modest increase to their welfare payment or a government mandated slight bump to their minimum wage which has as good a chance as eliminating their position as any other outcome. In Canada, we chose Trudeau over Harper; if Sanders and Trump both win their nominations, we will see a true resolution of which way America wants to go.

    We continue to fret about inequality but Western inequality pales in comparison to the less free parts of the world. True societal success will never be achieved by punishing the successful.

    A couple folks here seem memorized by the new “62 that control the world” list but if that is a problem what is the solution? Confiscate half of it, run it through the government middle man and give everyone a thousand bucks? I thought that just ended up getting turned into beer and popcorn. Regardless, we are back to square one with a slightly larger number of people controlling the top tier of wealth.

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      Occurs to me, on the plus side…

      Sanders becomes POTUS, the number of corporate head offices pulling up stakes and moving to Canada would likely stagger the imagination.

      …not that the reality of America becoming a total train wreck, racked with unemployment, and thus social discord, on a scale that’s inconceivable would do us any good.

      You know, at least Trump thinks like an American.

      What planet Sanders’s brain is inhabiting is another matter entirely.

      And what does Clinton do? Tries to out-leftwing the doofus! You can’t even make up this shit!

      • doconnor says:

        He want be as socialist as the Scandinavian countries, those bastions of suffering and social unrest.

        A slave to pompous scientism

        • The Doctor says:

          Lefties and progressives are in the habit of trotting out Scandinavian countries as something we in North America should emulate, when in fact the person making the point has often never even visited a Scandinavian country, and, more to the point nobody in the audience has ever been to one. So the audience just blindly nods their collective heads, having no ability to make any critical comparison or analysis.

          I’ve visited Scandinavian countries on multiple occasions. They are lovely places. But to suggest that we or the USA can emulate or copy them overlooks a lot. Those countries are tight, homogenous societies with very low populations by world standards. And their taxation models are unique. No lefty ever leads with the whole VAT point, which is huge — the last time I was in Denmark, the VAT (their equivalent of our GST) was 26 percent. To think that any North American country is going to adopt that sort of a taxation model is a pipe dream. Which is why lefties typically don’t lead by suggesting we tax like the Scandinavians; they just suggest our governments spend like Scandinavian governments, without ever addressing that uncomfortable question about how we’re going to find the revenue. It’s intellectual dishonesty at its finest.

          • doconnor says:

            It’s true that countries with more homogeneous societies tend to have more generous social programs. Canada is something of an outlier in this because it has a very diverse society while having a fairly generous social programs. However we shouldn’t give up and work to overcome our instinct for tribalism and create a better country.

            It is debatable if their high consumption tax and lower income tax is the key to their success. Their much higher rate of unionism may be more important.

          • The Doctor says:

            Their high consumption taxes make the whole thing possible. Without those, it doesn’t happen — the Scandinavians have by far the highest tax receipts as a percentage of GDP among the OECD countries. Last time I checked it ranged fro 48 to 54 percent of GDP. Canada was around the average in the mid-thirties. The US, not surprisingly, was below the average.

            You need the revenue to fund that level of social programs — you can be unionized up to the tits, but that doesn’t translate into those levels of tax revenue. The key is that VATs get revenue from the broadest possible tax base, which virtually all tax experts agree is the best way to raise revenue. I’m not a Bernie Sanders hater, but he’s a useless tool when he implies that the solution to America’s problems is to eat the rich. In Scandinavia, they eat the middle class too, and that’s the key.

          • doconnor says:

            I do agree a large increase in tax rates would be necessary and a large increase in government spending as a percent of GDP.

            I know that many economists on the left and right tend to argue for a value added taxes over income taxes, but I’m not convened. The argument is that higher value added taxes encourages investment over purchasing stuff, but these days a lot of investments are things like derivatives, currency speculation and short term stock ownership, which do not create jobs or help develop things people actually buy, while buying a yacht instead would put money into the hands of workers who build it instead of just making the rich richer and more powerful.

      • Matt says:

        Wynne and Trudeau both out left-winged the NDP.

        Worked out pretty good for them IIRC.

  14. Matt says:

    We’ll know who the new leader is May 27th, 2017.

    Date announced this morning.

  15. SG says:

    “In Canada, we’re not immune. Smart conservative folks knew Rob Ford was a human shrapnel machine long before he became Toronto’s mayor in 2010 — but they supported him anyway, mainly because he was rich. If he’s rich, he must be smart, right?”

    Wow, Warren.

    I’m pretty sure you don’t have a shred of evidence to support this, or even anecdotal evidence.

    I was one of those Ford voters in 2010. I voted for him because, after 7 years of neo-marxist rule by David Miller during which public sector unions more or less took over the mayor’s office, I felt a fiscal conservative would do the city some good, even one as uncouth as Ford. Of course I would’ve preferred someone more professional, but at the time Ford was the only one on offer. His vows to privatize garbage collection and eliminate waste appealed to me and his record seemed quite credible on those planks. I don’t give a hoot about Toronto’s “international reputation” and that never factored into my decision, nor did Ford’s out financial situation.

    I don’t think I’m all that different from most others who voted Ford out of exasperation in 2010. (PS: I voted Tory in 2014).

    • doconnor says:

      “eliminate waste appealed to me and his record seemed quite credible on those planks”

      That he’d save the city billions by slashing councilor’s office budgets?

      What was wrong with Smitherman?

  16. Greg from Calgary says:

    I think conservatives, or at least the further right wing portion of the conservative movement is in a phase where they will flirt with these bombastic saviours who say what they want to hear.

    Then after a few defeats they will realize that Canada isn’t just made up of right wing conservatives. It is made up of a variety of people. And they will also learn that shouting that those not in your camp is a poor strategy to get elected. Then I believe they will dispense with reality tv personalities and begin to seek out those who want to work with others instead of shout at others.

    • Kelly says:

      No. They won’t learn. The party will abandon the right wingers. They will have to. Especially when we change our electoral system and everybody’s votes count equally. Justin Trudeau, in one fell swoop has sent the conservative movement screaming into a pit of darkness from whence nothing ever escapes…the place of gnawing and gnashing, slashing and thrashing…they just don’t know it yet.

    • Kelly says:

      No. They won’t learn.

      The party will abandon the right wingers. They will have to. Especially when we change our electoral system and everybody’s votes count equally.

      Otherwise Justin Trudeau, in one fell swoop will have sent the conservative movement screaming into a pit of darkness from whence nothing ever escapes…the place of gnawing and gnashing, slashing and thrashing…they just don’t know it yet. They will spend eternity standing with their noses against the picture window, looking at all the beautiful people pointing and laughing at them, while they eat their brie and drink their chablis. Maybe even occasionally raising an disingenuous toast toward the snaggle-toothed conbots shivering outside, while waving their wine glasses a little bit from side to side.

      Then the conservatives will turn on each other, fur will fly punctuated by sharp barks and squeals until one big Alpha Con rises from the heap.

      Then nobody will vote for him either.

  17. e.a.f. says:

    Oh, ya! Not only what the federal Liberals want, its good for the NDP also. With O’Leary as party leader we can figure the Cons will drop to third party status or even behind the Greens.

    O’Leary is not what this country or the Conservative Party of Canada needs. Believing in democracy and a variety of choices for Canadians, I would like to see a Conservative Party more in line with what we had when we had a P.C. party. The Conservatives hold 100 seats in Parliament, so there is a need for the voters to be represented. The Party could well disappear with O’Leary at the helm.

    He like Trump make these wild statements, but really there are no details. With O’Leary’s comments regarding unions, how just would that work out for Canadians. With Trumps comments about deporting 11 million people to Mexico, how just does he plan for that to be done? Really both of these guys are all mouth and little substance. its almost as if both of them had fallen into a load of Colorado and B.C.’s best products.

  18. SG says:

    On the subject of O’Leary…how could a man that rich be so utterly pathetic?

    Trump at least has this larger-than-life persona that he’s honed over many decades. O’Leary is some of sort of wannabe-Trump, trying to be the biggest jerk around just for attention.

    I remember his comment in which he declared that it was “great” that an increasing concentration of wealth was in the hands of fewer and fewer people at the very top.

    O’Leary got VERY lucky selling his crappy money-losing business at the height of the dotcom bubble. I don’t begrudge him that luck, but he really should wipe that smirk off his face.

    As a right-of-centre voter (on most issues, though not all), his leadership of the CPC would force me to vote for party of Prime Minister Trudashian in 2019.

  19. Russ says:

    As a Liberal, I don’t want O’Leary as leader of the CPC – I want to see someone who can rationally articulate the Conservative platform and offer an alternative to the other parties. That is how democracy works best. We had enough bombast with Kenney, Baird et al. Can we please get leaders of ALL parties who care more about Canada than their personal ideology.

  20. Jack D says:

    Kevin O’Leary is a dick dressed in money. He’s a prick who thinks because he’s been on TV before, his opinions carry enough weight for him to lead a political party. He’s had financial success but knows nothing about politics and the function of Canadian government. He’s mouthing off because he’s never had to worry about getting his face punched in for being an a-hole. He’s got an ego thats gone unchecked for way too long.

    He, or Trump, aren’t “telling it like it is”, they’re talking out of their asses because they aren’t afraid of having to back up their words. Its like walking into a bar and calling a big guys mother a whore than quickly threatening lawsuit if the guy hits you. If this is the type of person people believe are honest or brave, then they are sadly… sadly, mistaken.

    As a Liberal, O’Leary mucking up the leadership race sounds not so bad to me. But for the good of Canadians politics, don’t give this asshole the chance. Conservatives are better than this, Canadians are better than this.

  21. bluegreenblogger says:

    I don’t watch TV anymore. One of my daughters used to watch Dragons Den, so I have seen the guys face in passing. Most Canadians are much like me in their TV habits. As a consequence, they know little about him. That makes him a real nobody, ’cause he thinks he is a household name, while 90% of Canadians never heard of him

  22. He was a lot of fun on Dragons Den (well Trump was fun on The Apprentice too), so sad though if you ask someone to name a Canadian show, it’s probably one of the few people know.

    Now whether his Dragon past is going to help him or not, I’m not sure, I’d think after the CTV senators (Duffy and Pamela Wallin) went down in flames, the Tories might be wise to keep some distance from more media celebrities.

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