With Leitch and O’Leary, Conservatives are flirting with catastrophe

Neither candidate seems to represent anything beyond shameless self-interest

As President-elect Donald Trump tangles with actress Meryl Streep on Twitter (could both of them please give it a rest?), U.S. politics continues to cast a long shadow north of the 49th parallel, notably on the Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership race.

Two candidates in particular are being depicted as Trumps in canuck clothing — one by the punditocracy and rival CPC candidates, the other by both of those groups and by her own design. And while comparisons with the mercurial media magnet about to become the 45th president of the United States is winning both candidates a lot of free media attention, they may learn that the price is still too high — for themselves, for the party and for the conservative movement in Canada.

The first supposed Trump stand-in is Kevin Will-He-Or-Won’t-He O’Leary. The unilingual O’Leary still hasn’t committed to a run; he’s likely waiting for this month’s French debate to be out of the way first. His prospective candidacy has been compared to Trump’s since its earliest days, even before Trump secured the Republican nomination.

The comparison is one of style, not substance: Both O’Leary and Trump are businessmen-turned-reality-TV-stars fond of speaking their minds. But when they open their mouths, very different things come out. In Trump’s case the rhetoric amounts to protectionism, billing Mexico for a border wall and cuddling up to Russia. In O’Leary’s case, it’s free trade, support for immigration and calls for lower deficits.

O’Leary himself has been quick to distance himself from Trump. And while he says he would have voted for Trump personally, O’Leary doesn’t bash the “mainstream media”; he even praises the CBC.

Instead, O’Leary claims to be the man to take Trump on, rather than emulate him. “I think Trump versus Trudeau is Godzilla versus Bambi … You need someone that can negotiate. You need someone that has run businesses — that has pivoted when they know that the environment has changed.”

Colourful language, but it actually points to a vulnerability the two men share: As with Trump, O’Leary’s business acumen has been questioned — in particular in relation to the implosion of The Learning Company after it was sold to Mattel, an acquisition described by Businessweek as “one of the worst deals of all time.”

Read the full article on iPolitics.

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