On Thursday afternoon, the Wilfrid Laurier University Conservatives, in conjunction with the University of Waterloo Conservatives, hosted a talk by Conservative leadership candidate, Kevin O’Leary.
While it may have been due to a reinvigoration of young political involvement, or maybe to his intriguing celebrity status, the event was the biggest in the club’s history — their 830 registrations greatly exceeded the room’s capacity of roughly 300 people.
“I feel like a Kevin O’Leary event just self-promotes,” said Charlie Beldman, president of the Laurier Conservatives.
“It gets shared and shared.”
The event began with a video onscreen, asking a deceptively complex question: Who is Kevin O’Leary?
Currently, O’Leary is a candidate for leadership in the Conservative Party — although his views are rather atypical for the role.
They’re based less on traditional conservative values and more on building an effective opposition to the Trudeau government.
We will tolerate all … because that’s who we are as a party, and that’s what Canada is, frankly.
O’Leary sees a need for innovation and, upon election of a populist figure like Donald Trump, he sees a governmental necessity to adapt.
“That would have been an opportunity for a good manager, realizing the world had just changed under their feet, to pivot…Trudeau kept swimming like a lost salmon up the stream. More personal taxes, more corporate taxes, brand-new carbon tax, when it’s all going to the other direction south of the border,” O’Leary said in his speech.
In this, O’Leary hinted at his own economic vision, by recognizing the need to accommodate a Trump presidency.
However, he chooses to reject the oft-quoted, superficial idea of himself being ‘Canada’s Trump.’
“[W]e’ve both got notoriety and a big social media following with reality business television — I, in the case of Shark Tank, he in The Apprentice — but that’s where the similarities end. I’m half-Lebanese, half-Irish. If we had a wall around this country, I wouldn’t exist,” he said.
Immigration was a topic that O’Leary spoke on at length, especially as a way to differentiate Canada from the U.S.
He believes that less cumbersome, erratic policies in Canada will attract better specialized labour — especially in technology.
“Coders, engineers from Iraq, Iran, Syria and many of the Middle-Eastern countries are legendary. Persian mathematicians created math thousands of years ago, and they still remain to this day some of the best engineers in artificial intelligence, robotics … all kinds of different disciplines.”
“They’re going to go where there’s a path of least resistance,” O’Leary said in his speech.
There have often been qualms with O’Leary’s brash television personality — the boorish, money-hoarding ‘Kevin the Dragon’ he claimed to have retired upon entering the leadership race.
I’m half-Lebanese, half-Irish. If we had a wall around this country, I wouldn’t exist.
“Canadians aren’t stupid; they know the difference between reality television and policy.”
“I mean, I know the Liberals are dragging out all the old clips, but it’s irrelevant …”
Taking individual approaches on value-related issues, O’Leary noted that he sets himself apart by being a Conservative who isn’t especially socially conservative.
“The party will not dictate morality…” he said.
“I call myself a conservative expansionist. What’s going to happen here is we will tolerate all races, all religions, all cultures, all moral compasses, all beliefs — because that’s who we are as a party, and that’s what Canada is, frankly.”
The culmination of his vision edged toward a conclusive, simple result, answering why a student of any political affiliation should support him and his movement.
“To get a job. That’s basically it. The liberals have failed at growing the economy. Trudeau’s policies are punitive for job growth — it’s a huge issue — everybody should be given a fair chance, but Trudeau has failed on his mandate and everyone who’s graduated is figuring that out.”
Continuously, to rousing applause, he bilingually iterated his perceived destiny, almost as a rallying cry:
“Je suis le seul qui peut battre Justin Trudeau.” — “I am the only one who can defeat Justin Trudeau.”
“I’m going help him find his true calling in life … it’s not running Canada.”
To the many who were unable to get into the event, there are preliminary plans to bring O’Leary back.
“If Kevin O’Leary is to win the leadership, we will likely have him again next year. We will sort that out with, hopefully, the Lazaridis School,” said Beldman.