Photo credit to Matthew Eisman, Getty Images*
In December, I wrote about the next wave elections that will take place across Europe. But in doing so, I ignored our friends to the north in Canada, whose Conservative Party is having their own leadership election in May.
The winner of this race will take on the responsibility of being the face and voice of the party along with becoming the new Prime Minister if the party is able to win more parliamentary seats than Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party in 2019.
The polls have settled around a new front runner in the leadership race — Kevin O’Leary, of Shark Tank fame. A blunt, tough-talking star of a Mark Burnett produced business-themed reality TV show with no prior political experience has the potential to lead a country. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar.
But the similarities don’t stop there. O’Leary is facing an enormous field of 13 other candidates in his effort to lead the party — President Trump faced 16. Despite being the frontrunner, O’Leary has only secured the endorsement of only one sitting Member of Parliament. Likewise, throughout the entirety of President Trump’s primary campaign, he had only one endorsement from a sitting Senator. O’Leary’s rivals Erin O’Toole and Andrew Scheer have the endorsement of 21 and 24 sitting members of parliament respectively. Despite this, both are sitting consistently in the single digits in the polls. I’m currently recalling Trump’s “I’m at 42 and you’re at 3 [percent]” remark to Jeb Bush. Because now, a laundry list of endorsements from establishment politicians might as well be rendered a death sentence.
His independent streak recently led him to skip a bilingual primary debate in Edmonton, citing issues with the format.
Of course, he and Trump have their differences. A full-fledged follower of Trumpism would be rejected in a country known for its embrace of multiculturalism, relatively open borders and one where 80% of Canadians have a fearful attitude toward the Trump presidency. O’Leary, a half-Irish, half-Lebanese son of immigrants stated with regard to the comparison: “If there was a wall around Canada, I wouldn’t exist.”
But O’Leary’s campaign has been remarkably populist — rebelling against elites based in Ottawa instead of Washington, London, Brussels or Paris. Putting “Canada First” — if you excuse the reference — is an enormous part of O’Leary’s economic rhetoric. In fact, every figure in this new global populist movement has taken a distinct approach to it.
At a debate, O’Leary recently spoke about the number of young Canadian entrepreneurs who are leaving the country after receiving their educations due to a destructive taxing and regulatory environment. One that makes starting and sustaining business in Canada very difficult. O’Leary proposes slashing said taxes across the board as well — gasp — cutting Canada’s hallmark environmental regulations. Including the complete elimination of the country’s carbon tax. Similarly, O’Leary is calling for a diversification of the economy away from the United States, as we take in 80% of Canada’s exported goods and services.
O’Leary also uses his outsider rhetoric repeatedly with regard to the economy. Arguing that politicians who have never run a business don’t understand the implications of a carbon tax on the economy. Or that — unlike Trump — he will bring the youth who have been “living in the basement of their parent’s home” back from Trudeau.
Next time a Facebook friend of yours shares an image of Trudeau or wishes that they could live in Canada — remind them that Canada has had consistent GDP growth of under 1 percent. Or that the country will likely be operating at a budget deficit until 2055.
Another recent moment that triggered memories of The Donald was an interview on CBC News when O’Leary was asked if he would consider running for parliament in 2019 if he were to lose the leadership election. O’Leary responded: “When I do things — I don’t think about losing.” And with regard to becoming a Member of Parliament: “Sitting in Ottawa is not going to help me.” Likewise, O’Leary denies any chance that he will lose the leadership race and has already started to focus on taking on Trudeau in 2019.
O’Leary was known for his bombastic persona on-air. Insulting aspiring entrepreneurs and earning himself the famous nickname “Mr. Wonderful.” Just watch this vulgar scene for reference. Right now, his new targets are Conservative Members of Parliament. But soon, it will be Justin Trudeau.
Dominoes will continue to fall, and 2016 will serve as the canary in the coal mine for what is to come. Ordinary people across the globe are taking back their political systems one nation at a time — back from supranational political unions in Europe. Or from out of touch political leaderships not just in the United States — but across the West. And soon, potentially from a young Prime Minister who is more flash than substance.
A new kind of politics is here. And I am loving every second of it.