By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
Kevin O’Leary isn’t a politician – in fact he’s sick of them. And he says others across the country feel exactly the same way.
It is this notion, plus his background in the world of business, that the former Dragons’ Den star wants to be the leader of the Conservative Party.
The leadership contender was in Durham Region on Friday to drum up support for his campaign and tell people what he would bring to the table for Canada – and for him, that’s money.
“Our economy is no longer growing – it’s going into collapse. It’s gone down since Trudeau arrived on the scene with 1.5 per cent, down to 1.1 per cent then 0.9 then 0.7. The way it manifests itself for people here and everywhere else in Canada is no jobs. No wage inflation,” says O’Leary during a media roundtable prior to his campaign events.
“Canada does not work when the economy isn’t growing at three per cent. You don’t get healthcare, you don’t get support for education, huge issues around military spending, and of course what makes Canada unique is its social net, its ability to take care of its people. Can’t do that either. Trudeau is on a track to bankrupt the country.”
O’Leary says the current system with career politicians isn’t working, and that people are starting to recognize that.
“The body politic around the world – in England, in Switzerland, in Colombia, what’s going on in France right now – people are tired of politicians. They’re tired of the lack of executional excellence,” he says.
“Politicians, career politicians don’t know the challenges of payroll. It works when you have a naturally growing economy, but all of a sudden you slow down and you can’t afford healthcare…people have realized they need executional excellence in government, and I think that’s why they’re opening their arms to people that have had a long experience of doing exactly that.”
One of the politicians O’Leary singled out for this was Ralph Goodale, currently serving as the federal public safety minister under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“I don’t know who Ralph Goodale is, I’ve never met him, but I listened to him last Saturday or Sunday when Evan Solomon asked him a simple question, ‘What are you going to do about the porous border and the hundreds of people streaming…across the Manitoba border and Quebec?’” he says.
“And then I listened to him for about eight minutes and realized maybe if you stay in Ottawa too long, you catch a disease as a politician because he spoke for eight minutes and said nothing. That’s my definition of incompetence – I’ll be firing him when I get to Ottawa too.”
The Conservative leadership contender did not mince words when it came to a frequent target of his barbs: Premier Kathleen Wynne.
“The reason that Ontario is no longer competitive is brutal costs of energy, particularly electricity. This actually began in the McGuinty era and was accelerated by the weak leadership of Kathleen Wynne,” he says.
“As a federal leader, what do you do when you get a black swan event like a Kathleen Wynne? She’s a toxic cocktail of mediocrity and incompetence. She needs an immense amount of adult supervision in these policies, and I’ll be giving it to her from Ottawa.”
O’Leary went on to say that, should he be elected prime minister, he would withhold money from Ontario and Alberta should they choose to keep what he sees as destructive policies.
“For example, if she wants to maintain the carbon tax, I’ll deduct it out of her transfer payments. I will not allow her to destroy the manufacturing base of Ontario because I can’t fulfill my mandate of three-per-cent growth if Alberta and Ontario…are managed by incompetent leaders. We need a much stronger federal leader that can help incompetent leaders like (Alberta premier Rachel) Notley and Wynne do the right things. I can encourage her to understand the plight of her people,” he says.
“If they worked for any of my companies, I would’ve fired them a long time ago. I can’t fire them, but what I can do is make damn sure they don’t get a second mandate of destruction.”
The main reason behind entering the race, O’Leary says, is to get rid of Trudeau and the Liberals.
“In 2019, it will not be an election. It will be an exorcism. I am going to excise him out of Ottawa and then reverse all the damaging economic policies he’s put in place because he doesn’t understand what he’s doing.”
According to a mid-March poll among Conservative Party members by Mainstreet Research and iPolitics, O’Leary is currently leading the field with 23.65 per cent, ahead of Beauce, Quebec MP Maxime Bernier’s 19.3 per cent and former house speaker Andrew Scheer’s 10.33 per cent.
However, according to a projection by the CBC, which also takes into account endorsements, fundraising and various polls, Bernier is seen as most likely to become the party leader.