It didn’t even take until lunch time for the latest entrant in the Conservative Party leadership race to embarrass himself. The definition of embarrassment is entirely my own because, as we’ve learned from the Trump experiment south of the border, sometimes a gross lack of political savvy and poise is a selling point, and worse still, some people are all too willing to buy it. Considering all that, Kevin O’Leary, the cartoonishly super villain like “entrepreneur”, “business expert” and reality show TV star, began his political career by saying the following on CP24: “[Justin Trudeau]’s lucky he is going to meet me and I’ll tell you why. I am going to help him find his ultimate destiny because it is not running this country, that’s for sure.”
“I’m going to help him find his destiny”? Is O’Leary running for the Tory leadership or is he wanting to be Obi-Wan Kenobi and send Trudeau Skywalker on a mission to restore peace and justice to the galaxy? Who knows? Who knows why O’Leary is of the opinion that his political career is something we’ve all been waiting for? It was just a month ago he said straight-faced that the race already had too many participants to justify his entry. And a few days later he opened an “exploratory committee” to see if he should, and when those results came back in the affirmative last week, O’Leary had to do the one thing he knew he had to do: confront the fact that the party wasn’t waiting with baited breath for him to jump in, and jump in anyway.
So the stage was set on Tuesday night. O’Leary, safely ensconced in a secure location, followed the French-languange debate from a secure but Twitter enabled location where he could get a simultaneous English translation. “Bonjour mes amis!” was as French as O’Leary got as he threw out Twitter bombs like, “Is anybody else watching this and wondering when we’re going to start talking about creating good jobs?” Too bad Kevin wasn’t there in person to change the topic to jobs, but he has French issues, you see? He doesn’t really speak it.
Don’t worry though, he’s on it! “I’m doing the work and the way I’m going to do it is I’m asking my business associates to force me to only speak French during the business day because I need to converse in the language of commerce,” O’Leary told CP24. You have to admire his ability to kill two birds with one stone, but I have to wonder how a guy that supposedly values business and making money above all other considerations can justify breaching his “time is money” philosophy in order to turn his office into a remedial French class. If O’Leary were serious about learning French, you’d think he might dedicate some time to it rather than cramming it in with the rest of his daily routine.
Of course, nothing’s more important to O’Leary then business, which is why he told a student during a 2014 appearance on Radio-Canada’s Tout le monde en parle that if it comes between spending time with your girlfriend and making money, make money and the girls will follow. “Let’s be realistic about this and pragmatic,” he said in English on a French talk show. “Which one is easier to replace: the business or your girlfriend? … The answer is this, he is very happy, he has many girlfriends because he’s very wealthy now.”
If that seems selfish and unprincipled to you, you’re not the only one. “Somebody who is as self-interested and opportunistic as Kevin is not someone I was to have run the country,” O’Leary’s former Dragon’s Den co-star Arlene Dickinson told CTV News. “Of course it gives him an advantage in terms of profile. He’s a name that is recognizable. But again, I want to say, just because we know him from television doesn’t mean that he’s the right person to run one of our major political parties.” And that’s presumably someone O’Leary at least had a professional relationship with, but even more troubling is that O’Leary’s persona may be more fictional then factual.
In a post earlier this month, the CBC talked to Stuart Coxe, who was the executive producer of Dragon’s Den, and, for lack of a better term, “Kevin O’Leary’s” creator. “Everyone told us you’re never going to find an interesting Canadian business person. You’re never going to find someone who can command an audience. Canadians are boring. And Kevin is many things but he is never boring,” Coxe recalled. “So we started shooting for a couple of days and I had to basically take him aside to say, ‘Kevin you’ve got to work on being more evil. It’s better that way.'”
So there you have it. Read the 2012 Globe and Mail profile on O’Leary and you see the picture of a man that learned the best way to get noticed is to be the loudest, and then he built a financial “house of cards” out of a software developer and sold it to Mattel resulting in a tidy profit for himself and a albatross around the neck of the toy company. From there, O’Leary went from one kind of venture to another until someone decided he was interesting enough to put on TV and the rest, as they say, is history. So why run for leader of the Conservative Party? Because that’s what “Kevin O’Leary” the TV character would do next.
Would it have occurred to O’Leary to run for office if Donald Trump hadn’t just won the presidency? I doubt it, but if you’re going to be Trump-like, which O’Leary’s been accused of being, you’ve got to do what Trump does. The one problem is that O’Leary is that he’s no Trump, and Canadian politics are not like American politics. He told the Globe that he might not even seek a House of Commons seat if he wins the Conservative leadership in May. “I am not going to seek a seat. That’s a waste of time for me right now,” he said. You hear that Canada, it’s not even worth his time for O’Leary to do the bare minimum of an opposition leader, which is to sit in Parliament. Asking the government questions, devising policy and political strategy, developing a slate of Conservative candidates nationwide: can’t someone else do it?
Like Trump though, O’Leary knows the value of appearances, which is why Thursday afternoon O’Leary tweeted out a video of him being interviewed by Good Morning America, as if ABC would give him the time of day if he weren’t the star of their Friday night reality show, Shark Tank, the American rip-off of Dragon’s Den. O’Leary tweeted, “I’m taking Canada’s concerns about Trump directly to New York. Where is Trudeau?” He’s in Canada, of course. You know, being prime minister. Because that’s where the job is.