Inspired by Donald Trump, Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary might be positioning himself to run for prime minister of Canada, a position equivalent to the U.S. president.
Although he has lived in Boston for about 20 years, reality TV personality O’Leary is considering seeking to become leader of Canada’s Conservative Party (a.k.a. the Tories), which would then presumably propel him to run for the country’s top spot in the next national election.
Although it is not mandatory, Canada’s prime minister traditionally is an elected member of in the country’s parliament, the House of Commons. Whether O’Leary — assuming he actually runs for the Tory leadership which is far from clear and may be just a publicity stunt — would break that mold is pure speculation at this point.
The Shark Tank cast member and mutual fund chairman has an estimated net worth of $300 million.
The Tory leadership election won’t occur until Mary 27, 2017, so it remains to be seen if conservatives in Canada will decide if the millionaire businessman and brash TV personality is actually Mr. Wonderful in the political sense.
A new poll of conservatives from Mainstreet Research, however reveals that O’Leary is virtually tied for the top spot with a well-known career politician.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper led the Conservative Party while it was in power from 2006 to 2015. Harper resigned as leader (but still retained his seat in parliament) after his party’s defeat in the October 2015 Canadian election that resulted in the Liberals, led by legacy candidate Justin Trudeau, forming the current government.
In what is a familiar theme to Americans during election 2016, O’Leary has declared that Trudeau’s high-tax, big-spending policies are doomed to failure and that the country needs a business professional at the helm to create and maintain jobs.
Journalists have, among other things, slammed O’Leary (see clip below) for his inability to speak French, which apparently is a prerequisite for a political career in Canada. Of Irish and Lebanese heritage, O’Leary was born in Montreal, and conceded that he might take French lessons even though learning the language at this point might be in his view a form of political pandering.
Although the Shark Tank panelist has described himself as “politically agnostic,” interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose said that, “Kevin O’Leary is someone who believes in smaller government, lower taxes, he calls himself a Conservative and he’s welcome to run in the race.”
— CBC News (@CBCNews) January 18, 2016
In a press release, Mainstreet Research offered this analysis of Kevin O’Leary’s Trump-like political viability.
“Kevin O’Leary is an entertaining personality and shameless self-promoter. He has been called the Canadian Donald Trump and follows in the footsteps of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sonny Bono, Ronald Reagan and other celebrities who have capitalized on name recognition to enter politics. Should he actually enter the Conservative leadership race there would be support — but whether he actually intends to run is another matter entirely. Certainly he has the potential to shake-up the race and despite being a newcomer to politics, would be one of the candidates to watch.”
If you haven’t the seen Shark Tank on ABC, what happens on the show is that entrepreneurs or would-be entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to five often obnoxious, but oddly engaging, deep-pocketed “sharks” — including O’Leary — and try to convince at least one of them to invest in their venture. The wealthy sharks are sometimes overly stingy with their money or overreaching with their demands for equity in a company. The blunt O’Leary has a tendency to demand a sometimes onerous royalty arrangement in addition to a stake in a venture as well pushing for outsourcing product manufacturing to China or another country outside of North America. “You’re dead to me,” is another O’Leary catchphrase when negotiations fail.
O’Leary starred in Shark Tank‘s Canadian precursor, Dragon’s Den, and he is a familiar presence on Canadian TV discussing politics and finance.
Like Trump, O’Leary is predictably receiving criticism from both the status quo-oriented left and right of the political spectrum, made news last week by promising to invest $1 million in Canada’s energy sector if Alberta’s NDP premier, Rachel Notley, resigned.
“The businessman admits he’s a polarizing figure, but argues he’s just telling the truth. If that sounds like someone running for the top job south of the border, it should. O’Leary freely acknowledges he is inspired by the campaign success of Donald Trump. ‘I know Trump. I know his family. I’ve watched him work. I think he’s smart as a fox,’ he said, adding that Trump’s approach to politics taps into a growing fatigue with politicians in general coupled with a desire for better management.”
— Truth Mashup (@truthmashup) January 19, 2016
On the other hand, O’Leary distinguished his outsider status from the unconventional populist rhetoric that is attracting many Republicans, Democrats, and Independents (who reject politics as usual) to the Trump column, Macleans noted.
“Yeah, I think there are some comparisons that are valid. Certainly both Trump and I have been involved in television in the United States and we’ve enjoyed success in the areas of business reality TV, he in The Apprentice and I in Shark Tank. It does give you access to the media—that’s why you and I are talking right now. But the discussion we’re having regarding the mandates that are going to be required to manage Canada versus what Trump has to deal with in the U.S. are completely different. There’s no need to build walls in Canada. We’re a very inclusive society. We’re very proud of it, every Canadian feels that way, you don’t have to debate that mandate. There’s a populist movement afoot [in the U.S.] . . . that he’s tapped into that doesn’t exist in Canada. So I don’t think there’s any similarities after reality TV. These are two different problems.
To paraphrase his ex-reality show counterpart Donald Trump, do you think that Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary will make Canada great again or will he ultimately decide “I’m out”?
[Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP]