When Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary recently mused that he was considering entering Canadian politics, pundits quickly compared the investor and reality television star to another capitalist looking to gain power through public office: Donald Trump. But in a recent interview, O’Leary distanced himself from his brash counterpart running for the Republican Party leadership.
In an interview with CBC News Friday, O’Leary confirmed he was thinking of running, but drew a line when it came to comparisons with Trump.
“We both enjoy success in reality television. But that’s where comparisons end. What Trump is doing in the United States has nothing to do with the challenges in Canada.”
O’Leary’s Shark Tank is produced by Mark Burnett, the same man behind Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice. Burnett is somewhat of a reality television powerhouse whose credits also include The Voice and Survivor.
Speculation that O’Leary might enter Canadian politics began last month when the television personality and businessman said he might be willing to take on a political role if challenged to do so. He planned to be outspoken about Canada’s political landscape, regardless of whether he chose to abandon his leather chair on Shark Tank for a seat in the House of Commons.
As the Inquisitr reported in January, O’Leary said he would never be a candidate for the NDP, Canada’s center-left federal party. That left the Liberals or the Conservatives, and since the Liberals just took power in Canada’s parliament in the fall of 2015, press assumed O’Leary would go for the leadership of the Conservatives. The party will elect a new leader next year to replace former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who resigned after his election loss.
As if to demonstrate he is indeed “politically agnostic,” as he claimed in January, O’Leary told CBC News that he has time to choose his political stripes and implied that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won’t last in his current position.
“I can choose which party to actually run in because I think there will be a leadership race in the Liberal Party.”
He predicted party divisions will be irrelevant the next time Canadians go to the polls, which is unlikely to be soon since the Liberal Party has a majority government. O’Leary said he is a member of the “Canadian taxpayer party,” identifying the economy as his clear focus.
O’Leary appeared on a panel called “If I [were to] run, here’s how I’d do it,” at a conference of “small-c” conservatives this weekend. As the Toronto Sun reported, O’Leary said he would criticize the Liberal government’s budget. He claimed to have told the current Finance Minister he does not approve of deficit spending.
“I want to make sure that these politicians that are implementing this waste understand they will be accountable to the Canadian people that are paying these bills. I think that’s the most effective role I can have in this economy.”
The Toronto Star reported that O’Leary downplayed his lack of bilingualism as an impediment to a prominent political role. Although O’Leary was born in Montreal he does not speak French, a traditional requirement in the officially dual-language country. O’Leary nonetheless claimed to understand Quebec, saying people there are interested in the same issues as the rest of Canada despite the mother tongue of the majority.
“I’m guaranteeing you one thing come this next election: it won’t matter what language you speak unless you can create a job. Quebec is no different.”
If O’Leary does decide to run for the Conservative Party leadership, it will be some time before he makes it official. He told press at the panel event that he would make up his mind closer to May, 2017, when the Conservatives will choose a new leader.
In the meantime, Canadians can catch O’Leary on Shark Tank Friday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC.
[Photo by Aaron Davidson/Getty Images]