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Thursday, January 17, 2019

It’s not often that Canadian businessmen make comments bombastic enough to garner attention in the American news cycle, but Kevin O’Leary is determined to change that. The business tycoon and television personality (sound familiar?) shot to the front pages of every news site in Canada for promising to invest $1 million into Alberta’s oil industry. (Yes, you read that correctly: one million, with an “M.”) His offer came with a single demand: the resignation of Alberta’s premier, Rachel Notley, a social democrat who stunned political observers in May 2015 by ending a 44-year-old conservative political dynasty in the province.

“I’ll put the first million down,” said O’Leary in an interview with Newstalk 1010, a conservative radio station based in Toronto. “Please, I’m asking her please, please step down, do it for the sake of Canadians, do it for the sake of all of us.”

O’Leary has made a name for himself by being something of an anomaly in the Canadian landscape: a public figure who is solely obsessed with the accumulation of capital and little more. He rose to fame as one of the investors in Dragon’s Den, the Canadian version of Shark Tank, where for eight years he eviscerated inventors who didn’t agree to his business terms. In his own words, during a bizarre episode on SqueezePlay, a show he hosted years ago, “I need dough and I need dough every month. You got to pay Daddy number one.” In January 2014, he celebrated the fact that 85 people were reported to have as much wealth as the poorest half of people in the world. “It’s fantastic and this is a great thing because it inspires everybody, gets them motivation to look up to the one percent and say, ‘I want to become one of those people, I’m going to fight hard to get up to the top.’ This is fantastic news and of course I applaud it,” he said. “What can be wrong with this? I celebrate capitalism.”

O’Leary dislikes politicians like Notley for a very simple reason: He can’t turn a profit as easily when she enacts policies like raising corporate tax rates, prioritizing climate change policy, and refuses to cut social spending. And despite the fact that Alberta is suffering from a deep recession, she has remained fairly popular among her constituents. Polls give her a 50 percent approval rate, even with the continued collapse of both the provincial oil industry, Alberta’s primary export; a $5.9 billion deficit she inherited from the previous government; and the specter of 2016 shaping up to be yet another year of economic recession for the province.

There is little to suggest O’Leary isn’t contemplating a Trump-like path to national notoriety. His sales pitch to the Albertan public — the investment of $1 million in a stricken oil industry, in return for removing their elected premier — is little more than an attempt at grabbing attention. The Albertan oil economy had $27.2 billion worth of investments in 2012, so $1 million is barely even a drop in the bucket for the industry, even in these troubled times.

Andrew Leach, a business professor at University of Alberta, came to a similar conclusion, saying in a tweet, “If Kevin O’Leary gets a five or ten of his closest friends to join him in that investment, they might be able to drill and complete a well.”

To further illustrate the absurdity of O’Leary’s offer, which sounds very similar to an offer made by a similarly obtuse Dr. Evil, Leach tweeted, “Tomorrow, Kevin O’Leary will tackle high property values in Toronto by selling a 2 bedroom condo, but only if Wynne AND Trudeau resign.” He was referring to Ontario’s Liberal premier, Kathleen Wynne and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Indicating that he may be taking a cue from The Donald’s success, O’Leary is now considering a run for the leadership of the Conservative Party. The Conservatives led the country for nearly a decade under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper before Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party swept last October’s elections. “I don’t know if he’s maybe inspired by the successes in the short term that Donald Trump has had in the United States. But he’s a person with some strong opinions who if he wants to offer them in public life, I think he’ll find it a very different environment,” said James Moore, a former Conservative cabinet minister. “But I think people will be interested to hear what he has to say.”

Alberta’s premier, however, isn’t backing away from the businessman’s apparent disregard for democracy, trying to buy her out of elected office. She tapped into the resentment Albertans sometimes display when given orders from Canada’s Toronto elite, of which O’Leary is a member. “The last time a group of wealthy businessmen tried to tell Alberta voters how to vote, I ended up becoming premier,” she said.

O’Leary is an odd figure in a progressive nation. He made his name as a voice of the Canadian right wing, once telling Chris Hedges that Occupy Wall Street protesters “can’t even name the names of the firms they’re protesting against.” His never-back-down posture on Dragon’s Den, the show that introduced him to the public, earned him a date with a stranger in the Toronto airport once, who called him a “total asshole” to his face. It’s reportedly a favorite anecdote of his, one that let him know he “made it.”

Notley, on the other hand, comes from a social justice background. Her father was the leader of Alberta’s New Democratic Party (NDP), the left-wing Democratic party, for nearly 20 years, at a time when the NDP was barely hanging on to life in the province. She spent years in Vancouver working on labor law and social justice reform before returning to Alberta to enter politics. And Notley has not been in denial about the state of Alberta’s economy, nor has she ignored the flagging oil industry, (a charge her critics have lobbed at her). It’s hard to ignore the loss of 40,000 jobs in a province of 4 million people. But at a time of low oil prices, there is very little the premier can do given that the economy has been so reliant on oil for so long. However, the solution is not to promote the overthrow of democratically elected leaders.

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16 responses to “Meet Canada’s Very Own Donald Trump”

  1. dtgraham says:

    I watched the response to Kevin O’Leary on both of the daily Canadian political shows yesterday. A Trump wannabe is what everyone called him, besides a slew of other names. Even the conservative on one of the panels (Chad Rogers) called him an attention seeking clown who’s not serious and needs to shut up. The consensus was that this would only help Notley. A million dollars for Alberta’s oil industry is like trying to solve a famine with a bag of Cheetos, as one of the panelists put it.

    That he’s seeking the nomination of the federal Conservative party is news to me. He needs to have a seat in Parliament first, and good luck with that. Their interim leader is a woman who’s trying to put a softer face on the party and bring back the Progressive Conservative approach and policies from the federal PC past and provincial PC present. The pundits agree that this is the direction they appear to be moving in. So, good luck Kevin.

    I’ve never seen anything like that in Canadian politics before. It’s always so bland. That’s the Trump effect. Entertainment north of the border too.

  2. FireBaron says:

    Unfortunately for O’Leary, The Donald could probably buy him with chump change.

  3. The disease of “New Era Conservatism” is capable of assaulting the commonsense of anyone in the world, and the strain “Trumpilitis” is particularly infectious.

  4. joeham1 says:

    Kevin is correct. She needs to step down. Alberta has had over 50,000 job layoffs since August. Her hate for their #1 resource oil is hurting Alberta. Canada already has amongst the highest taxes in the world with more being promised. Their taxes are so high they virtually can’t be competitive in manufacturing in the world. Trudeau has also promised to raise taxes on anyone making over 200,000 a year. That of course will hurt their economy. Their “free” health care has resulted in high costs and long waits for critical operations like our VA system and like Obama care will be.

    • dtgraham says:

      For now, Rachel Notley may feel like the captain of the Titanic, nursing the largest deficit in Alberta history. However, it was Skipper Prentice and his Tory predecessors who strayed into the icefield in the first place, eventually hitting the big berg.

      Has Kevin O’Leary forgotten that it was Premier Prentice who warned Albertans before the last provincial election that the province was facing a $7 billion shortfall in the budget after eons of Tories calling all the shots? The ass was out of the oil market long before Rachel Notley and the NDP appeared on the scene.

      Nor did these oil-junkies, who passed themselves off as solid fiscal managers, ever ask the most basic “what if” questions about their economic stewardship of non-renewables.

      Canada still gets all of the basics right in it’s institutions (banking system, healthcare, public education, rule of law, etc…) and still ranks 15th out of 144 countries on the WEF competitiveness index. Where the country has been lacking in more recent times are investments in R&D and innovation. Those have been down lately, which has held Canada back. It’s manufacturing sector has only declined to the extent of the OECD average, which has largely been brought about due to globalization and competition from slave labour countries.

      Incidentally, critical surgeries in national single payer health care systems never face wait times, although some elective non-emergency procedures can. Those wait times are always grossly exaggerated by the American political right though.

      • CrankyToo says:

        My respect for your opinions grows in leaps and bounds.

        • dtgraham says:

          Thanks Cranky. Likewise. Mine for yours. I guess we don’t have to know too much beyond the basics though, to look good against the likes of Donald Trump and Kevin O’Leary.

          • CrankyToo says:

            Yeah. I think Robert Zimmerman said it best: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”. (Unless, of course, you’re a Turd Party wingding.)

  5. Wedge Shot says:

    So, we rate the worth of a person strictly by the amount of money they have. Never mind the fact that Trump’s companies have gone bankrupt four times hurting thousands of the employees of these companies, taking away their pensions, health insurance and security. All while making Trump richer. I hope he chokes on his billions and realizes that it cost him his soul to accumulate it.

  6. CrankyToo says:

    You know you’ve got a future in conservative politics when people think
    you’re “total a$$hole”. Sounds like Trump and this avaricious POS could
    be butthole buddies.

  7. Renfield says:

    Used to enjoy Amanda Lang kicking his Tory ass regularly on the CBC’s “Lang and O’Leary.” She’d make a better politician, come to thin of it.

    • dtgraham says:

      That business show, in that form, hasn’t been around for a long time now. He got so many complaints, and viewership began to drop, that the CBC dropped him from the Lang and O’Leary exchange and renamed the show, “The exchange with Amanda Lang”. It’s been a going concern ever since.

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