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Eyeing top job, ‘Canada’s Trump’ joins conservative race

Kevin O’Leary is expected to join the fray for the leadership of the opposition Conservative Party in an attempt to become the Canada’s next Prime Minister.

world Updated: Jan 18, 2017 20:46 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Kevin O'Leary at the 2015 American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California on November 22, 2015.
Kevin O'Leary at the 2015 American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California on November 22, 2015. (REUTERS FILE)

A brash tycoon who has also become a reality TV star aspires to the highest political office in his North American nation. While this may sound familiar, given that Republican Donald Trump will be sworn in as president of the United States on Friday, in Canada, businessman Kevin O’Leary joined the fray on Wednesday for the leadership of the opposition Conservative Party in an attempt to become the country’s next Prime Minister.

He tweeted: “It’s official, I’m in! The Conservative Party of Canada needs a candidate who can beat (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau and bring back jobs to this country!”

He also posted a video of the formal announcement and a statement on his campaign website, which begins: “Canada cannot afford another 4 years of Justin Trudeau.”

Echoing Trump’s outsider rhetoric, O’Leary said, “Canadians are looking for a Prime Minister who is not a career politician; a Prime Minister who will fight for them, and is not afraid to tell them how it is.”

In fact, he even mentioned Trump in the statement: “Now, with the election of Donald Trump to our south, Canada’s largest trading partner is headed by a businessman with an aggressive strategy that could hurt the Canadian economy. Trudeau doesn’t stand a chance, and we deserve better.”

O’Leary, who co-founded the mutual fund company O'Leary Funds Inc in 2008, is worth approximately $300 million but has gained name recognition from his appearances as an abrasive investor in the reality shows, Shark Tank in America and its Canadian version, Dragon’s Den.

After speculation since Federal elections in late 2015, he finally announced he is running for the leadership of the Conservatives, to replace former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The party’s version of the primary, the convention, is scheduled for this summer.

O’Leary will enter the race with some momentum as polls taken over the last few months have consistently shown him leading other contenders.

The 62-year-old businessman, who was born in Montreal, chose to make the announcement after a French-language debate for the party leadership.

Though born in the Francophone province of Quebec, he is not fluent in French which is considered a disadvantage in Canadian politics given that it’s a bilingual nation.

He has an affinity for Trump, as he told the country’s national broadcaster CBC in an interview, “I know Trump. I know his family. I've watched him work. I think he's smart as a fox.”

Much like Trump, he also holds an MBA, and is the author of books on earning wealth, starting with Cold Hard Truth: Business, Money Life in 2011.

And he echoed Trump as he wrote in that book that the brutal truth is so rarely spoken these days. “It’s like an ancient tribal language we’ve forgotten we know how to speak.”

He is also a harsh critic of the Liberal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. During a speech at the right-leaning Manning Center in Ottawa last year, he said, “Our financial policy in this country is broken.”

He also uses Twitter to attack Trudeau.

In recent days, he tweeted the hashtag #Incompetentleadership.

He has also expressed positive views about economic ties with India in interviews.

The expected move may have come from an exploratory committee that he appointed, which reported last week that it saw a “clear path to victory” for O’Leary if he ran.