A collective shiver whispered across the landscape this week, and it’s no wonder. This is quite a momentous week. I mean how often do you get to see Three Doors Down and Toby Keith in one concert?
I kid. The big news this week is obviously the inauguration of Donald Trump and the entrance into the Canadian Conservative leadership race of one Kevin O’Leary — kind of a mini-Trump.
In a far more innocent time — a year and a half ago — one and all scoffed at the idea of a brash, reality TV star having the nerve to think he could be elected to the highest office in the land. Well, his inauguration is on Friday and we’re not so innocent anymore.
Kevin O’Leary has many similarities to Trump. He has a reality TV show — two actually. He began with Dragon’s Den in Canada and now appears on Shark Tank in the U.S. He and Trump even have the same executive producer, the wildly successful Mark Burnett, king of reality TV. Trump has Trump steaks, Trump hotels, Trump water. O’Leary has O’Leary Fine Wines. Trump gets big money for speaking engagements. So does O’Leary. Trump shook up U.S. politics. And O’Leary is hoping to do the same in Canada.
But O’Leary has his differences from Trump as well. Unlike Trump, who made building a wall and banning Muslims a central part of his campaign, O’Leary decried Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s talk of niqab bans and his barbaric cultural practices snitch line. In fact he told Macleans Magazine that Harper “tainted the Conservative brand when he did that”.
O’Leary prefers to stick to jobs and the economy as his message, and he has no trouble at all lumping Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau into one evil, leftie ball of ineffectual governing.
In fact he uses his inability to speak French — which is considered the kiss of death for Canadian politicians — as a hook. “The world doesn’t care anymore what language you speak, unless it’s the language of job creation and economic growth,” he says.
All well and good, but French is one of Canada’s two official languages and most politicians at least pay lip service to learning it. Quebec also has 78 ridings, and it is pretty difficult to win a majority without carrying at least some of those seats. Will Quebec voters hold his inability — or refusal — to speak French against him? Or will they welcome him home, considering he was born in Montreal?
O’Leary entered the leadership race on the day after the French language debate, something his opponents were quick to point out was pretty convenient, seeing as it was the only French debate scheduled.
He also says that some of the more provocative things he has said as a TV personality don’t count, although he expects his opponents to bring them up.
This does bring to mind Trump’s aide Kellyanne Conway saying that you shouldn’t listen to his Tweets, just trust what’s in his heart.
But first O’Leary must win the leadership. And it does appear he is in a pretty good position to do that. His name recognition alone is going to be a death knell to some of the more obscure candidates like Chris Alexander, Erin O’Toole or Rick Peterson.
And it’s also bad news for candidate Kelly Leitch, who has been co-opting some Trump style messages for her own campaign. She just got out-Trumped.
If nothing else it’s going to inject some excitement into what has been a fairly plodding campaign thus far.
But enough of that, I need to go make some popcorn for the Three Doors Down concert. They have been referred to as “the budget Nickelback”. You can’t get bigger than that! I’m so excited!
Carolyn Grant is Editor of the Kimberley Bulletin