Donald Trump is nothing if not practiced at placing himself at the epicentre of attention by repeatedly and unapologetically blurting his interpretation of the cold hard truth. Is conservative Canada really going to fall for its own version of Donald Trump?
Canadians who’ve been following the U.S. presidential candidacy race, which has so far been defined by embattled business magnate Donald Trump, have in all likelihood dismissed the events as another magnified example of American political spectacle. Unfortunately, we were reminded recently that we are not immune to such phenomena.
Celebrity investor Kevin O’Leary wants to Make Canada Great Again. At least, that’s what is to be assumed following the announcement he made in January, and reiterated last month — O’Leary is thinking about running to be the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. This message came shortly after he put forward an offer to invest (a rather negligible) $1-million into Alberta’s energy sector, on condition that the province’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley agrees to resign.
For Mr. O’Leary, the Notley government’s efforts to catch up with other provinces on more than forty years of corporate regulation negligence is problematic. During an interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton, O’Leary suggests that the country’s recent economic woes — the plummeting dollar, the large scale layoffs, and the melting investment climate — can be blamed on Notley’s lack of political know-how, rather than on the real cause: crashing global commodity markets. Now more than ever, it should be evident that what Alberta needs is stability and diversification.
O’Leary seems to be taking notes from Trump, the American spectacle that Canadians feel they are immune to, by taking a liking to pinning a country’s problems on certain individuals and groups. Since his candidacy announcement, Donald Trump has repeatedly come under fire for his puffed-up remarks. These include radical comments towards women, most notably former Republican presidential opponent Carly Fiorina and Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, as well as blatantly divisive proposals to keep Muslims and Mexicans out of the U.S. Although O’Leary has never gone as far to call out an entire ethnic or religious group, he does share Trump’s core trait: his appeal to greed. Pure economic libertarianism is their mantra. Money is their religion.
Whether or not Mr. O’Leary’s interest in seeking the Tory leadership spot is influenced by Mr. Trump’s presidential candidacy remains uncertain. However, it wouldn’t be foolish to suppose a correlation; Donald Trump’s success among the Republican electorate, as recent polls would suggest, has undoubtedly made it easier for other uber-wealthy businessmen to imagine themselves in such a position. After all, this type of ‘no-bullshit’ right-wing populism seems to be faring quite well south of the border.
Will Canada’s right wing really fall for this brand of extreme anti-elite, anti-knowledge conservatism? ‘Bob from Edmonton’, who recently gained notoriety as the man behind the New York Times’ most popular comment, seems to think that a Canadian Donald Trump is unlikely. “Mr. Trump would be destroyed in Canadian politics,” he recently wrote in a Globe and Mail article, simply because “craziness doesn’t sell.”
Such characters, Bob argues, are the antithesis to the “nuanced and informed considerations” supposedly prevalent within Canadian politics. Over the years, Canadians have rejected extreme notions, whether it was Harper’s pointed anti-immigrant rhetoric during our last elections, or the idea that business moguls know how to manage in tough economic times.
Despite O’Leary’s unlikelihood of success, his, along with Trump’s recent fanfare and media coverage should warrant questions into our current state of affairs. How is it that these hard-liner calls are being given so much attention and support? Is the increased prevalence of O’Leary-Trump types to be expected in these ongoing times of economic instability? Perhaps it isn’t Trump or O’Leary we should be weary of, but rather, to use Bob’s words, the erosion of our “nuanced and informed considerations” in these difficult times.
Banner illustration courtesy of Wanderer Online Design Editor Janelle Holod. Kevin O’Leary photo by Randstad Canada, changes made to the original under Creative Commons License.