He’s a reality TV star turned politician, the bad guy with a populist agenda promising “jobs, jobs, jobs.” And he’s not Donald Trump.
Kevin O’Leary, onetime star of Dragon’s Den and currently seen on television in Shark Tank, was in town this week looking to gain support for his bid to become the leader of the Conservative Party and our next Prime Minister. It meant being late for another commitment, but I went to the rally anyway, hoping to get a few questions answered. I did, but not the ones I went to ask.
I don’t watch television. I’ve never seen Shark Tank, and only one episode of Dragon’s Den; what I know about O’Leary is what I have read. He’s the latest in a line of anti-politicians who promise to make our lives better. I admire the sentiment, but wonder how someone who couldn’t find Parliament Hill without a GPS would be able to bring together our legislators and stir them to positive action.
Taking the stage half an hour late (something that didn’t endear him to this radio guy who believes in the importance of being on time), O’Leary was very slick. Smooth and polished with a very pleasant voice. No comparison to Donald Trump, whose voice I find grating. Or maybe it is attitude. Unlike Trump, O’Leary doesn’t sound like he is whining, even when he is complaining about Prime Minister Selfie and his policies.
He spoke for 15 minutes, more or less. No questions from the audience, no mingling with the crowd. He had another event to get to. That annoyed me a little, given that he could have done those things if he had started on time.
As for the speech, it sounded great. A strong attack on the Liberals disastrous economic record. Kevin O’Leary will fix all our economic problems and find good jobs for everyone. Of course he offered no specifics on how he is going to do that. Neither did Donald Trump, and the American voters took him on faith. We’ll soon know if he can deliver.
The speech was light on policy. I had wanted to ask some questions about the Middle East and perhaps something about climate change. No mention, and no opportunity.
What was clear is that Kevin O’Leary is concentrating on winning. His focus is on bringing the Conservative Party back to power. For those of us who actually believe political parties should stand for something, a clearly articulated set of beliefs and principles, that is rather problematic. If unprincipled winning is your goal, you might as well join the Liberal Party. After all, they have free membership.
O’Leary says he can bring Millennials back to the party. The key issues he says are LGBTQ rights and legalized marijuana. We have to be in favour.
I’m not sure about legalizing marijuana, for a number of reasons too numerous to detail here. I don’t think it is right to encourage escapism. Reality isn’t that bad. I also believe in equal rights for all Canadians, not special rights for a few, which usually finds me on the politically incorrect side of any gender discussions. So O’Leary has lost me on those issues.
When Kevin O’Leary declared his candidacy last month I said he couldn’t win. I still stand by that assessment. If we had a primary system like they do in the United States, the contest would be pretty much over at this point; O’Leary would romp to a win. But that’s not the way the votes will be cast or counted.
O’Leary has to convince Conservative members to place him high on a ranked ballot. If he doesn’t espouse conservative policies, it may be hard to woo existing party members.
I figure he needs to sign up 100,000 new members, at $15 each in the next two months to have a legitimate shot at winning. I don’t think he can do it.
But it will be fun to watch.