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Is Kevin O'Leary Ready For His 'Close-Up'?

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Looking back at the last election, the Harper Conservatives made a serious mistake that the current crop of cons continue to make; ignore the rising influence of highly engaged, liberal leaning millenials. Right up to the last minute in his campaign, Stephen Harper continued to press his message that Justin Trudeau was too young, too inexperienced, and had no idea how to lead this country. He was not ready to lead, that is, until he won his landslide victory forming a majority government, relegating the Conservatives to leaderless second party status. Late breaking news flash: he's the leader of Canada.

And with the Conservative party's best bet for a leader, Rona Ambrose, committed to not running for the permanent job, the current field of underwhelming candidates will now have to square off against Kevin O'Leary. While it may be tempting to draw parallels between his entry into the race and the path to the White House travelled by Mr. Trump, I suspect at some point soon Mr. O'Leary will realize that he is not Donald Trump, and this is not the United States.

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Conservative leadership candidate Kevin O'Leary at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., on March 16, 2017. (Photo: Lars Hagberg/CP)

While O'Leary is best known for playing a caricature of a stereotypical tough businessman, the truth about his own corporate record has been characterized as shocking, and his success attributed more to celebrity than business smarts. His recent claims he is the only one who could defeat Justin Trudeau and his Liberals sound more like parroting Trump, and much less like a potential leader who might revive the flagging fortunes of his potential political party -- assuming Conservatives would even have him.

Mr. O'Leary has missed much of the debates, and while he is a great mean talker, I don't for a moment believe Canadians, including most millennials and boomers, are interested in the country being governed by a mouthy bully with dubious business credentials, no French, and poor people skills.

I look forward to hearing his platform, and to seeing how he chooses to behave during this run for the leadership. For now, I can't help but think he will be seen as a TV personality, who was more famous a few years ago then he is today. And his mean, aggressive persona is no match for the current charm and youth offensive that has so many Canadians forgiving so much of Justin Trudeau's recent stumbles.

In any event, the real race for the Conservatives comes after the leadership race, when the Conservative party will have to convince a younger voting public to buy into their brand. I just can't see Mr. O'Leary having anything relevant to offer this demographic. I fully expect him, like his fellow leadership opponents and the former leader of the party, to completely misread the mood of the electorate. But like everything Kevin O'Leary has done so far, it will probably make for entertaining television.

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