Wednesday, January 18, 2017

O'Leary Leaps In.

Some American visitors are likely to be familiar with Kevin O'Leary.  The Canadian businessman has been one of the regulars on ABC's reality TV series Shark Tank since its debut in 2009.  But he may be leaving the series, as he announced that he is running for the leadership of Canada's federal Conservative Party.

The Conservatives are Canada's equivalent of the Republican Party, although it's fair to say a lot of Republicans might find some of their policies dangerously left wing.  Previous Conservative Party leader, and former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper resigned after the Conservatives lost the 2015 election to Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party.  The campaign for a new leader effectively began at the beginning of 2016, with the announcement the leadership convention will held on May 27th this year.

O'Leary has not surprisingly drawn comparisons to Donald Trump, and has said his interest in running for the leadership was inspired by Trump.  O'Leary isn't as rich as Trump(although, like Trump, some claim he's not as rich as he claims to be), and doesn't have the same kind of baggage Trump does.  He's had a long media presence in Canada, including being on the Canadian business reality show Dragon's Den, and co-host of the CBC News Network current affairs show The Lang and O'Leary Exchange before leaving CBC in 2014.  He's also said some things that might remind one of Trump, such as questioning global warming, and calling the fact that the 85 richest people in the world own as much as the poorest half of the world's population "fantastic."

The timing of O'Leary's entry into the race has raised some eyebrows.  This morning's announcement followed the sole leadership debate of the campaign held entirely in French.  To lead the main federal parties in Canada one has to make at least a pretense of trying to speak French, and O'Leary admits his French is weak.  Of course this could be said about some of the other candidates, and they made an effort.  And in case you're wondering, a candidate that was effectively unilingual in French wouldn't get the time of day from those parties.

What are O'Leary's chances of winning?  It's hard to say.  He's the fourteenth candidate to enter the race.  Yep, fourteen people are running.  O'Leary is the most well known, and at the moment the vote is heavily split.  On the other hand it's likely we'll see someone drop out with his announcement, and of course some of those candidates probably don't have much of a chance no matter who is running.  A good example would be my former Member of Parliament Brad Trost, who is not well known outside Saskatchewan.  But there's also the chance an "anybody but O'Leary" movement might build behind one of the candidates.

If he does win the next step will probably be someone resigning their seat in Parliament so O'Leary can run in a by election..  Presumably he would get elected, but that's not a given.  Not getting a seat would partially put him on the sidelines, since he wouldn't be able to show Canadians what he can do in the House of Commons, and might be seen as a bad sign regarding his chances in the next election.  Barring a gigantic political scandal bringing down the government, or Prime Minister Trudeau randomly dropping dead, the next Canadian federal election is in 2019.

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