Kevin O’Leary’s no Trump, but neither is he the right leader

When it comes to his political ambitions, the price isn’t right


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TORONTO, Ont. Jan. 19, 2015/ Troy Media/ – Is Kevin O’Leary the right person to become the next federal Tory leader? In a word, “no.”

The financial commentator, author and TV personality obviously has the right to embark on a political career. If he decides to run for the Tory leadership, the media would surely cover his every move, thought and word.

Moreover, O’Leary would make the campaign highly entertaining. He would force other leadership candidates to provide concrete reasons why they support, or don’t support, certain policies. He wouldn’t allow them to hedge their bets and would constantly hold their feet to the fire.

This is all fine. But why would the Tories, after losing last year’s federal election with a highly experienced political leader in Stephen Harper, even spend a nanosecond considering a high-profile political novice like O’Leary?

Scott Reid, who served as former prime minister Paul Martin’s director of communications, correctly wrote in the Jan. 16 Ottawa Citizen that, “Government isn’t a game show.” When it comes to O’Leary’s political ambitions, the price isn’t right.

Alas, some people would prefer having a leader who’s untainted by the political process. It follows a train of thought popularized by the late National Review founder William F. Buckley, “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”

Which brings us to Donald Trump. The successful U.S. businessman, author and TV personality also has no political experience and says whatever is on his mind. He’s leading the GOP presidential race by a wide margin, according to most polls.

If Trump can do it in America, why couldn’t O’Leary do it in Canada?

For one thing, they’re not as similar as you might think. O’Leary recently said in an interview, “I am certainly not Donald Trump in policy – foreign policy or domestic or social. We are different people.”

Like it or not, he’s right.

O’Leary has never made a sport out of attacking individuals and communities for personal gain. He’s also a much stronger supporter of capitalism than Trump, who has promoted fair trade and seems to intensely dislike the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The other difference between the two men is more obvious.

Trump’s political success has been an enigma. He’s acquired support from certain demographics to build a coalition, and uses a controversial political message that mixes elements like fear, intolerance and nationalism. It’s a political stew that would destroy most candidates. Yet Trump’s public profile, powerful personality and massive ego has offset these poisonous elements and utilized them to achieve unexpected political success.

O’Leary simply can’t replicate this. I’m not sure anyone else could, either.

No, the challenges the man nicknamed “Mr. Wonderful” faces are uniquely Canadian.

He’s never run for political office, which doesn’t sell in this country. His bombastic persona and surly personality (on camera, anyway) is virtually impossible to spin away. He doesn’t understand the nature of give-and-take in politics – or life, for that matter. He can’t stand on his soap box every five minutes, beat his chest, proclaim his views in a triumphant voice, and take a “my way or the highway” approach to leadership.

It’s one thing for O’Leary, the political commentator, to criticize Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley’s political skills, and offer up $1 million to the oilpatch if she resigns. That’s fair game. It’s quite another for O’Leary, the political novice, to tell the Toronto Sun’s Joe Warmington that, “Canada is broken and there is nothing wrong with being a guy who would like to fix it.”

When you’ve never dipped your toes in the murky political waters, this statement looks ridiculous.

My message to Kevin O’Leary? You have solid small “c” conservative credentials, but you’re not even close to being ready for the rough-and-tumble world of politics. Run at your own risk and peril.

Troy Media columnist Michael Taube, a newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Michael is also included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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