Commentary: Make Canada great again

By Danielle Cameron

In case you didn’t hear, Canada is broken and Kevin O’Leary has anointed himself the one to fix it.

Enter the dragon.

“Canada is a great opportunity,” O’Leary declared to the media. Sound familiar? It should.  A similar exhibition of bombastic, self-indulgent blather can heard south of the 49th parallel.

Donald J. Trump struts his stuff on the stages of GOP debates and Republican conventions, pea-cocking his take-no-prisoners approach to purging America of the blight of do-gooder liberalism.

He sits before the cameras of FOX and CNN, night after night, gleefully boasting about his moneymaking acumen.

He makes a lot of money—I mean, a lot of money—and therefore, must obviously be the perfect presidential candidate to pry Barack Obama’s hands from the helm and steer America right (pun intended).

The orange-hued titan of media attention has proven to viewers that he is not afraid to speak his mind, lambaste any other candidate or attack media.

Similar – though heavily diluted – traits can be seen in any number of Kevin O’Leary’s episodes of Dragon’s Den, where he never fails to mercilessly take wannabe entrepreneurs down a peg.

“You’re fired!” Or, wait – that was Trump’s The Apprentice.

There is no doubt O’Leary can manage a brand, but what makes him think he can lead a country? 

He’s a successful businessman, TV star, and poster child for lovers of regurgitated pages of Ayn Rand dogma everywhere – but that’s not conservatism.

Canada’s conservatism is more closely attributed to tenets of classical liberalism, which traditionally do not give ascendancy to individualistic or predatory greed.

Dragon-bashers dislike his bedside manner and lack of ethics.

O’Leary caused a storm when he vowed to invest $1 million in Alberta oil if NDP Premier Rachel Notley would resign.

The mere suggestion of his willingness to extort duly elected officials is appalling and reveals his poor judgement.

Conservative officials are drafting up the rules for leadership selection, which is expected to take place May 27, 2017.

The Tories are indeed rebuilding and their next leader is crucial to moving forward, hopefully, in a more progressive direction.

Should O’Leary wake up one morning and decide he will wade into the race, who’s he up against?

CBC has been keeping track of who’s who. The field of candidates is large, with several who more than likely will not run.

Peter MacKay arguably tops the list as the most logical and fitting choice, but did not seek re-election in 2015, citing his young family as a bigger priority.

MacKay was a Nova Scotia MP, held three prominent ministerial posts in Harper’s cabinet, and was the last leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party before the 2003 merger.

A poll in 2015 by Abacus Data concluded that MacKay had 31 per cent support from Canadians when it came time to replace Stephen Harper – similar to the results of a poll in 2005 by SES Research (now Nanos Research).

In a recent national survey of 4,937 Canadians, including 1,400 self-identifying Conservatives, O’Leary and MacKay are neck and neck, both leading the pack at 25 per cent support.

Though serving under the unpopular Harper government, MacKay often played centrefield when it came policy and legislation.

In second with 15 per cent was Jean Charest, a former Québec premier and also a past leader of the PCs. Former cabinet ministers Jason Kenney and Lisa Raitt were tied at 10 per cent, Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall at nine per cent, Québec MP Maxime Bernier and Toronto’s Doug Ford (see Rob Ford) are both at eight per cent, while Ontario MPs Kellie Leitch (recall the barbaric cultural practices hotline) and Michael Chong are four and seven per cent, respectively.

It has become clear that interim leader, Rona Ambrose, has democratized the leadership race by opening it up to anyone, but the Conservatives would do well to not let O’Leary gain too much traction.

After all, the Conservative Party of Canada was created in 2003, as a bold attempt to end the devastating vote-splitting amongst centre-right and right-wing voters for a chance to win enough seats to defeat Paul Martin’s Liberals.

If the party bows to O’Leary, true unification of Canada’s right will become a pipedream again.

O’Leary is straight-up divisive, and if the Conservative Party of Canada plans to make a comeback and once again appeal to their moderate base, he is not an option.

Dig ’em or ditch ’em, the right-wing party is vital to Canada’s enduring democracy, but to stoop to reality-TV politics would further damage the party’s changing veneer.

This is where the lazy comparisons with Trump should end.

O’Leary is no Trump and Canada is not the United States.

Our Westminster-inspired set-up does not allow for populist ideologues, like Trump or even Bernie Sanders, because, in Canada, power lies not with the people but with the Crown.

Louise Carbert, an associate professor of political science at Dalhousie University, suggests a more accurate comparison to an O’Leary candidacy would be Peter Pocklington’s 1983 bid for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Carbert said the Alberta businessman’s run attracted a lot of media attention.

Pocklington, like O’Leary, is no Donald Trump, but he too advocated free-market capitalism.

Notably, he pushed principles of free enterprise by means of a flat tax. Pocklington was ultimately defeated by Brian Mulroney in 1983.

Despite his charisma and brash wit, O’Leary is in this for no other reason than himself. He sees this country from an investor’s point of view – just another business venture.

When he said “great opportunity”, did he mean for us or for him?

Our map does not read terra nullius Canadiana, despite the avenues to wealth and power through which he and his ilk may wish to exploit.