Speak­ing out

For­mer PM’s speech­writer re­jects Kevin O’Leary as the next Con­ser­va­tive leader.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MICHAEL TAUBE Troy Me­dia colum­nist Michael Taube, a news­pa­per colum­nist and political com­men­ta­tor, was a speech­writer for for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper

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 high­pro­file 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.

Kevin O’Leary

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