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O'Leary's Free-Market Chauvinism Doesn't Reflect Canadian Values

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We're almost two months away from the Conservative Party of Canada leadership convention, and what are Canadians and the official federal Opposition party to make of the bombastic blast from the CBC's past, Kevin O'Leary?

There's lots to consider.

kevin oleary
Conservative leadership candidate Kevin O'Leary. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

O'Leary's cons: he's not bilingual, he's weak on actual government public policy experience and his understanding of Canadian constitutional knowledge is limited to CBC sound bites bordering on passionate, polemical alt-right-style corporate statism.

O'Leary's pros: he's from Quebec, the progeny of a mother of Lebanese descent (a savvy matriarchal investor herself) and Irish father. He's got renewed wind in his spinnaker from U.S. President Donald Trump's unbelievable victory in the 2016 U.S. General Election. Some critics even argue he's our Canadian version of a "discount Trump." And he's a multimillionaire celeb-phenomenon moulded from North American reality TV entertainment's cult of personality.

But are those sufficient credentials for a leader governing one of the world's most dynamic and pluralistic federations in these turbulent and economically fluid times? Or is O'Leary simply a flash of cult personality who could further alienate middle- and lower-income Canadians, proving a liability for the federal C-brand in the 2019 election? Why is O'Leary even running?


On May 27, the Conservative faithful will have a fresh opportunity to look to an uncertain future. As the CPC strategizes for a new party leader, some right-minded pundits of market fundamentalism are touting the inexperienced political outsider -- the former co-host of The Lang & O'Leary Exchange and former venture capitalist/judge on CBC's Dragons Den -- as a serious contender for party leader. That imprudent direction may well prove to widen the chasm between the CPC and wiser-than-previously-anticipated average Canadian voters. The 2015 Federal Election results spoke volumes in regards to blacklash against Harper-like ineptitude and arrogance.

Having seen the surprising success of a Trump-style simpleton's minimalist approach to democratic discourse (or the lack thereof), O'Leary's finally jumped into the fish bowl of CPC-land. O'Leary is banking on a similar approach of egregiously arrogant, profoundly ignorant debate and acrimonious discourse in the run up to the party's leadership convention. O'Leary's avoided or outright dodged bilingual debates, substituting them with alternate (unilingual, English) "fireside" chats. He's cast aspersions of fraudulent membership finagling by "unnamed" opponents (even when his own political campaign's integrity has come into question). These should be on the minds of voting delegates when it's time to cast ballots for their party's next leader.

However, outside of the CPC leadership convention, consider larger quantum forces awaiting O'Leary's fate at the whim of the fickle Canadian electorate.

For many, O'Leary's univocal market mentality represents everything countless Canadians turned against in the 2015 election. O'Leary's chest-beating parochial and rhetorical diatribes symbolize the antithesis of any notion of democracy or Canadians' belief in a more compassionate national soul.

Average Canadians might be wary of an egoistic venture capitalist as their next prime minister, especially one with views rooted in the dog-eat-dog materialism of free-market plunder.

In the book Voices of Democracy -- Bernard Muchland's conversation with Elmer Johnson, a former head executive at General Motors (who oversaw the legal, operating and public affairs staffs between 1983 and 1988) -- some discerning things are revealed about a corporate mentality guided on the principal that only "the almighty dollar makes the world go around."

Their conversation centred on the prevailing question: Is democracy compatible with capitalism?

Johnson pointed out that when a society depends primarily on either the market, or legal authoritarianism (or any amalgamation of both) for creating and sustaining a passable ethic, then that society is in a serious state of reckless decline.

Oh, and we cannot forget how O'Leary, who garnered a national profile and celebrity status at expense of the public purse (CBC) has espoused everything from dissolving the rights of collective bargaining to granting multinational corporations and the business sector complete tax absolution. Who hasn't O'Leary pissed off at one time or another with his egregious pro-free-market capitalist diatribes?

For the C-brand shapeshifters and (re)inventors of the soon-to-be-reimagined CPC value system, O'Leary may well present a core funding and popularity hurdle. The entire CPC base may have been in denial about what really matters to all Canadians, and may need to rethink past and present adherence to market-focused fundamentalism. O'Leary and his ilk may want to hone up on Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz's lectures about the failures of capitalism and crisis in macroeconomics
rather than continue to be deluded by the belief that free-market looting makes for robust, sustainable economic recovery and a healthy democracy.


Wiser men of higher moral compass who have embraced Smith's sentiments foresaw a market system where the health of any organic democracy and re-invigorated national economy is bound to healthy levels of reinvestments. Former U.S. President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address racked up some convincing arguments on the merits of embracing a Keynesian mixed economy, where equality of wealth and social ideals are linked. Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes and Barack Obama's kind gravitate around the necessity of a society that embraces diversity and public-guided social investment.

Much the opposite of such grand ideals, who can forget how O'Leary celebrated the impoverishment of 3.5 billion people?

As the CPC attempts to remap its political policy with any hope of landing again on government shores in the next federal election, its waning credibility needs to show an authentic respect for a sustainable democracy rooted in a community of national togetherness -- and appear less of an elitist national party with a leader (or PM wannabe) of wealth and privilege, cemented in arrogance, rooted in ignorance. Bottom-line: he's just a bad long-term political investment.

Average Canadians might be wary of an egoistic venture capitalist as their next prime minister, especially one with views rooted in the dog-eat-dog materialism of free-market plunder. Canadians may want to be preemptive and consider a future without that persona non grata as their next prime minister.

Copyright © 2017 by Brian McLaughlin

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