Ex-dragon Kevin O’Leary talks frankly about the econ­omy and his ru­moured bid for Con­ser­va­tive party lead­er­ship

We ask bom­bas­tic wheeler-dealer Kevin O’Leary if he is re­ally se­ri­ous about tak­ing on Trudeau?

Midtown Post - - Table of Contents - By Jon Sufrin

Last month, for­mer Dragons’ Den big­wig Kevin O’Leary caused a me­dia firestorm by pub­licly ex­press­ing in­ter­est in join­ing the Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship race. Shortly af­ter, a poll put him at neck and neck with for­mer cab­i­net min­is­ter Peter MacKay. Could this ac­tu­ally be a real thing? We caught up with him to find out. So do you have a gen­uine in­ter­est in pol­i­tics, or is this all just for pub­lic­ity? I wouldn’t get into this fra­cas and de­bate if I wasn’t con­cerned as a Cana­dian and an in­vestor. I’m not a de­clared mem­ber of any party. I’m in­ter­ested in af­fect­ing change in the way we man­age our econ­omy. I call Canada bro­ken for a rea­son: it is. What needs to be fixed right now? What I would do right now, I would look at the num­ber one sec­tor of our econ­omy — en­ergy — and I would look at the jobs lost there. If I were [Al­berta premier] Rachel Not­ley, I would fly to Ottawa. She should be ne­go­ti­at­ing a main­te­nance pro­gram for her prov­ince. You re­cently called for her res­ig­na­tion and of­fered to in­vest $1 mil­lion in the Cana­dian oil in­dus­try if she did. Should peo­ple be able to in­flu­ence pol­i­tics that way? No, not at all. I was speak­ing as an in­vestor, and what I’m say­ing is sym­bolic. Thirty-six months ago, Al­berta was the envy of Canada. Look at it to­day. Who else can I blame for that? Surely there are global is­sues at play. Well of course, but when you have stress and un­cer­tainty, that’s when great lead­er­ship re­ally mat­ters. We don’t have that in Al­berta. It’s a disas­ter. Peo­ple are of­ten out­raged by what you say. What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Kevin O’Leary on TV and the real Kevin O’Leary? They’re the same per­son. You may find th­ese com­ments dif­fi­cult, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re the truth. By mak­ing th­ese state­ments, I’m try­ing to get peo­ple to fo­cus on a very im­por­tant is­sue. You’ve praised the global wealth gap, call­ing it “fan­tas­tic.” You said that rich peo­ple pro­vide poor peo­ple with some­thing to as­pire to­ward. I didn’t say the gap was a great thing. I said that the suc­cess of world economies is. Sta­tis­ti­cally, there will al­ways be a one per cent. There’s noth­ing good about poverty, but the one per cent pay all the taxes. They cre­ate all the jobs. They pro­vide what mat­ters to the Cana­dian econ­omy.

Some­how peo­ple tend to for­get that over and over again. Is poverty a mat­ter of as­pi­ra­tion? No, I think poverty is a hor­ri­ble thing. But the en­tre­pre­neur­ial way of cap­i­tal­ism is a good thing. The truth is, ev­ery other at­tempt hasn’t worked, and it’s cap­i­tal­ism that has pro­vided most of the suc­cess in our stan­dard of liv­ing. You’re of­ten com­pared to Don­ald Trump. What do you make of that? There are some valid com­par­isons. Both Trump and I have been in­volved in me­dia, par­tic­u­larly in re­al­ity shows. But that’s where the sim­i­lar­i­ties end. He has bet­ter hair than I do. I’m a Cana­dian with Le­banese-Ir­ish roots. I’m not into walls. Canada is a very in­clu­sive so­ci­ety. And the pop­ulist con­cerns that he’s ad­dress­ing in Amer­ica are com­pletely dif­fer­ent from the prob­lems we have in Canada.

Aside from your busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence, what else would you bring to the ta­ble as a politi­cian? I set tar­gets and I achieve them. The key is to mea­sure the ex­e­cu­tion. We should all be mea­sured by our past abil­ity to ex­e­cute. What do you make of Harper’s legacy: good or bad? I think time will re­view him as a suc­cess­ful prime min­is­ter in the most im­por­tant as­pect: the econ­omy. But if you think about the DNA of Canada, it’s the di­ver­sity and the com­pas­sion that Cana­di­ans have. And at the end of his ten­ure, he for­got what is the essence of Canada.

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