Kevin O’leary comes to Mcgill
Conservative Mcgill event sees heavy police presence in SSMU building
Television personality and businessman Kevin O’leary spoke in the Students’ Society of Mcgill University (SSMU) ballroom last Monday as part of his campaign to win the ongoing Conservative Party’s leadership race. The post is currently being filled by interim opposition leader Rona Ambrose, who replaced Stephen Harper as leader of the Conservative Party when Harper stepped down after substantive Conservative losses in the 2015 federal election.
“The Donald Trump of Canada”
Kevin O’leary has long invited comparisons to United States President Donald Trump. Both men are billionaires who gained mainstream fame through reality television and subsequently launched political careers despite possessing no formal political experience.
In a 2014 interview with the CBC, O’leary said that he “applauded” the wealth gap between the top one per cent and the bottom 3.5 billion people in the world living in poverty, claiming that their poor living conditions acted as a motivation for them.
O’leary was also recently criticized for posting a video of himself at a gun range during a funeral for the victims of the recent shooting at a Quebec City mosque, and has been ridiculed for his past refusal to participate in French-language debates, saying that instead of French, he speaks “the language of jobs.”
Heavy police presence on campus
The SSMU building was swarming with security personnel in the hour leading up to the start of the event, as organizers hoped to prevent protesters from interrupting O’leary’s address. In the end, Mcgill security and the police kept all protestors outside the building.
Jessica Lyver, Vice-president of Conservative Mcgill, the Conservative Party’s official Mcgill student chapter, spoke with The Daily about Kevin O’leary coming to speak at Mcgill.
“The Conservative Association is not endorsing any specific candidate,” she explained. “Every member of our organization has their own unique and personal views.”
Two attendees, who asked to remain anonymous, discussed their interest in O’leary’s speech in an interview with The Daily.
“I think the thing about elections,” said one, “is it’s not the party that you subscribe to, rather it’s listening with a critical mind to each side and picking what best represents you as a Canadian.”
“I live in Alberta, where we are in a recession,” explained another, “so as a young Canadian I find it inspiring that he wants to focus on the economy. The one place where I am critical of Kevin O’leary is that he seems to lack the social views, which would normally lose my vote in this case, but I guess we’ll find out what he says today.”
O’leary’s address painted a different picture of the Conservative Party than many may have been used to. The candidate claimed that he wished to see the party opened to people of all faiths, races, and sexualities, and called himself a “conservative expansionist.”
O’leary’s primary focus was the economy. He struck a very critical tone with regard to the Trudeau administration’s policies, and promised to abolish the “Carbon Tax” as his first action if he were to become Prime Minister. O’leary claimed that his impetus for entering the race had been the debt incurred by the Trudeau’s government.
“My entry into this race occurred hours after I read that document by the Trudeau government that told me that for the next thirty-eight years, this country would run deficits, so by the end the people of this country will be $1.5 trillion in debt,” he said. “That means that every child you have is born into $50,000 of debt before their first breath.”
Question and answer period
O’leary opted to host a question and answer period.
One attendee, Sophia, a law student at Mcgill, asked O’leary “If you become Prime Minister, will you divest yourself from your businesses to [...] reassure Canadians [about potential conflicts of interest?”
“There have not be too many candidates in Canadian history who come from [a] business [background],” O’leary responded. He pivoted the question about his investments abroad to reflect how they actually make his case to be Prime Minister better.
O’leary alleged, though, that if he become Prime Minister, he would put part of his investments into a blind trust, in the trust of a man who was a member of the Liberal Party of Canada.
“I have the only intelligent Liberal working for me,” joked O’leary to thunderous laughter. “You can only imagine those boring conversations about policy.” O’leary elaborated any remaining portion of his assets would be liquified. The full version of this article is available online.