Kevin O’Leary’s bid for Conservative Leadership

A closer look at what “Mr. Wonderful” hopes to accomplish in politics

By: Gregory McGrath-Goudie, Orillia Bureau Chief

By now, most Canadians know that reality star and business magnate Kevin O’Leary has entered the race for the Conservative Party’s leadership. Most Canadians also know that he is one of the front-runners within that race, despite attending only 3 out of 11 total leadership debates. The questions people still have regard the intricacies of his platform—what exactly is his plan should he overcome the odds and become Prime Minister in 2019? Does he represent Canada’s best interests? What will he do to secure a better future for Canadian citizens, and particularly for Canadian postsecondary students?

In 2016, when O’Leary was only contemplating a left turn into politics, he stated that his platform would focus on “three issues—1. Jobs. 2. Jobs 3. Jobs”. His major goal is to lift Canada’s annual GDP growth rate to 3%, up from 2016’s 2% growth rate, a lift that would certainly increase job opportunities across the nation. How can he fix Canada’s admittedly slow health care system? Boost the economy. How will ensure that postsecondary graduates stay in Canada? Create more jobs for them.

Regarding the current business climate, O’Leary shows great concern for increased taxes across the board—particularly the corporate and carbon taxes, which make Canada a less favourable place for energy companies to do business. His interest in the energy sector lies in the fact that energy is the top Canadian export and, in spite of the growing concern surrounding climate change, that “it’s going to be the driver for the next 25 years.” In a recent Conservative leadership debate, he has stated that the government’s responsibility is to “create a rich soil where an entrepreneur can plant a seed and have it grow”, while stating that the current business climate would not even allow someone to “grow a weed here.” He shows concern for postsecondary graduates who leave Canada, particularly engineers who find employment abroad in the U.S., and says that “our job is to make [Canada] the number one place where you want to stay and work.” In short, O’Leary wants to reduce corporate taxes and move to a less Keynesian economic model—similar to the one at work in America.

O’Leary touts himself as a “conservative expansionist” and seeks the votes of millennials—a demographic which overwhelmingly voted against the Conservatives in the last federal election. As such, he supports the legalization of marijuana, and refuses to take a hard stance on immigration. As the child of two immigrants, he says, “If Canada was building walls—I wouldn’t exist.” It is easy to see why O’Leary might take this stance on immigration. As his primary objective is to create a nation conducive to profitable businesses, he would naturally support foreign investment and immigration as a means of accomplishing his goals. Concerning marijuana, he states, “I want to make sure the quality is safe for Canadians if they’re going to consume it. I want to regulate it and tax it like any other commodity that goes through the government system.”

Despite his admirable goals in boosting Canada’s economy, his platform can easily been seen as limited in scope. During a Conservative leadership debate, the given topic of discussion was how the candidates would address the ongoing issue of sexual violence in Canada, and O’Leary states that he has “a very hard time criticizing our justice system or the men and women who enforce it,” while citing the countries that are worse-off than Canada as a reason to be thankful for what already exists. At the end of the day, O’Leary’s platform centers almost entirely on generating wealth within Canada’s borders. His stance on sexual violence, however, shows that he has considerably less concern for social issues that are not tied to generating wealth.