This weekend marked the convention for the Conservative Party of Canada. One of the speakers this year - Kevin O'Leary. He had drawn some attention months ago when it was speculated that he would run for party leadership. Earlier this week, he joined the party and over the weekend he spoke, using this opportunity to speak to people about ''the future of Canada'' with the aim of improving transparency and getting ''better results'' in government.
As O'Leary has articulated, he leads some early polls (despite the fact that we are about seven months away from the leadership convention). He is popular amongst several key demographics and already has name recognition (and not the kind that comes with much political baggage). O'Leary is a best-selling author, a television personality, and a business mogul. Most importantly, however, is that he is already being lauded as an outsider who is all too keen to speak his mind freely.
This shouldn't surprise anyone given the traction of Trump and Sanders in the United States. Both candidates, as I remarked in an earlier post, have built strong grassroots movements with large online presences. The true success has been in mobilising people against the status quo of ''politics as usual'' and O'Leary can absolutely benefit from this. Aside from his pro-business stance and his national celebrity, O'Leary is seen as someone who is honest and straight-talking, something to be viewed as contrary to other political leaders who speak in jargon, appear rehearsed, and come across as partisans.
All of this, of course, is borne of the false perception that those who are experienced business leaders will be excellent stewards of the national economy. Beyond the stereotype that Conservatives are strong fiscal managers, business savvy and guiding a national economy have little in common. The backlash of late against government (more generally) and politicians (more specifically) has been fed by the idea that a functional government only requires just a few more cuts. Ideological gaps are widening (as they did in the 1930s in Europe) and the results may very well be further polarisation when it comes to many social and economic questions.
O'Leary may very well have the charts to sweep him into public office, but he'd be wise to watch carefully what is occurring in teh United States. Given his attitude toward risk, I presume that he will not declare candidacy until Trump's success against the Democrats looks to be somewhat proven. We know already that Trump is a divisive figure (based on the Republican nomination) but we have yet to see how this will pan out in an election. O'Leary must be aware that his is in a similar situation.