The Conservative Party of Canada has started heating up its leadership campaign and I have a passing interest in it. Two of the candidates – the two most odious – are known to me personally. Kellie Leitch is the MP in my parent’s riding in Ontario and she was very helpful in helping my dad and I to get some written comments before the commons committee looking at the omnibus bill C-30 that Harper passed in 2012 when my own MP wouldn’t do it. Since then she has supported asbestos exports (against her oath as an MD), a Barbarian Practices Act and a currently racist dog whistle campaign on “Canadian values.” Chris Alexander, who was her partner in crime on the Barbarian practices bill and the tip line campaign promise was an elementary school mate of mine. We grew up a half block from each other, and he came from a red Tory family, with his dad as a supporter of Joe Clark in the 1976 leadership of the PCs, and in retirement he has done some interesting leadership work on diversity. In 1984 I watched Brian Mulroney’s election vctory at their house. Chris was always the smartest kid in any room I was ever in with him, but he took a hard turn to the right and threw his lot in with Harper. What he has in smarts he desperately lacks in political graces. He’s become rude and inelegant. And his stock has fallen mightily. He was also a sore loser when his constituents kicked him out of the commons last year. It’s too bad. At one point, when he our ambasador to Afghanistan, I imagined that he might make a good leader of the Conservative party and given his roots, might even pull it back towards a progressive conservative agenda. He’s a disappointment of the highest order.
So I’m kind of personally invested in this strange campaign, which brought me to reading up on Kevin O’Leary this evening.
It’s interesting to read Kevin O’Leary’s Wikipedia biography. What stands out for me is how he basically has experience as a software developer, a celebrity and a finance guy. But look a bit deeper and you see that his software career included creating a product and companies that eventually created a massive catastrophe for Mattel, who bought his company, made him a multi millionaire and imediately went into a tail spin. He walked away golden while a massive company and the enterprise he built swiftly crumbled, wiping $3 billion of shareholder value of the books of Mattel. he parlayed that fortune into an investing career.
His investment strategies are heavily tilted to the oil and gas sector, which makes his recent pronouncements against carbon taxes to be self-interested at best. If he runs for office, it wil be interesting to see how he handles the conflict of interest issues that will come up as a candidate and later an MP, should he make it that far.
On the experience side I’m struck by how little experience he has with economics or governance, having never studied or served in those capacities. He certainly comes across as a financial whiz as a pundit, but he offers his takes on taxes, Canadian dollar valuation and enterprise from a business angle, not an economics angle. Remember that the Tories chastised Trudeau for being inexperienced. O’Leary is well known as a celebrity and a talker, but I don’t see much in the way of public service on his resume. He doesn’t even seem to be into philanthropy at all.
Lastly it is curious on his official website that he talks about his father’s ethnic Irish ancestry, but only mentions his mother’s family’s merchant background and not that they are also Lebanese. I actually think that’s an interesting aspect of his background and it seems a shame he doesn’t talk more about it. Perhaps he does in his books.
He’s an interesting character once you dive in. I find him rakish and irritating, short tempered and egotistical, all qualities that seem to have a place on Bay Street, but are grating on Wellington Street. I really think this crop of Conservative leardership candidates is weak sauce, and I fear that the party will go the Trump route and pick him because of his brashness. This, however is not a time for a celebrity self-promoter to be in power as prime minister of Canada, but the Conservative party seems to have a bare cupboard at the moment.
The world is in a weird place right now and a guy like O’Leary might appeal to Canadians desperate to have their own Trump. Some of this crowd would probably elect Don Cherry if he ran, or resurrect Rob Ford if they could, the man who was John the Baptist to Trump’s Christ. O’Leary is nothing more than a huckster, full of his father’s Irish charm and his own inflated sense of self-importance. Good god, public governance is in desperate times.