O'Leary: a dragon that should remain in his den


An analysis of a Canadian business tycoon's bid for the Conservative leadership

If you haven’t yet managed to acquire a permanent migraine from President Donald Trump’s unconventional approach to pseudo-democratic politics, there’s still plenty of time as Canada could be in for its own political “Mindbuster” come the 2019 federal election.

Kevin O’Leary, a so-called “venture capitalist” made famous by his appearance on CBC’s Dragons’ Den and ABC’s Shark Tank, recently announced that he’ll be running as a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. O’Leary has expressed that his motivation to run stems from the support of thousands of Canadians and a burning desire to prevent current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from ruining the country.

Having never worked as a member of parliament, O’Leary justifies his lack of credentials by arguing that being a successful businessman and having a good sense of what Canadians want are strong enough reasons to assume the role of Canada’s most powerful and respected position. However, given that many of the problems Canadians face today are a direct result of having operated on a neoliberal business model for the past 40 years, one can’t help but wonder what “new plan” Mr. Wonderful has that’ll differentiate itself from Trudeau and his predecessors.

O’Leary’s “liberating” approach

“Cut”, “deregulate”, “privatize”, and “lower taxes”: these are just a few of the mantras that have been used by Conservative and Liberal Party governments since the start of the 1980s - these words are associated with an ideology that’s given rise to radical right winged parties seen in various parts of the world.

While it is too early to be sure as to whether or not O’Leary will embrace highly controversial policy positions on immigration, asylum seekers, minority groups, women’s rights, etc., he’s been explicit in his commitment to perpetuate the very corporate agenda that has left many Canadians dealing with greater job insecurity, low wages, increased feelings of loneliness, rising personal debt and other serious unpleasantries.

Unsurprisingly, reducing corporate tax rates, slashing newly implemented provincial carbon tax programs, approving pipeline expansion deals and refusing to engage in deficit spending are all part of O’Leary’s plan to create new jobs and stimulate the Canadian economy. However, this seems all too familiar, as former Prime Minister Stephen Harper implemented many of the same policies during his 8-year term, resulting in a poor period of growth and stagnant recovery from the 2008 financial crisis.

One major issue with O’Leary’s desire to reduce corporate tax, is it would have little significance on a country that already loses billions to multinational corporations using tax loopholes. Ironically, what O’Leary fails to recognize is that businesses primarily base their investment decisions around a variety of other factors such as labor costs, environmental and workplace regulation costs, energy rates, market penetration and other notables. Even with the low corporate tax rate that was seen under Harper’s Conservative government, companies such as Kellogg’s, Heinz, Ford, and Smuckers continued to close Canadian plants in the never-ending pursuit of higher and higher profits.

Moreover, the sheer fact that global wealth inequality continues to increase to unprecedented levels, with the most powerful multinational corporations enjoying incomprehensible amounts of wealth, it’s clear that companies aren’t missing the capital required to make hefty investments due to high corporate taxes. Unless Canadians wish to continue to engage in competition with areas of the world that allow private corporations to pay their workers poverty level wages, provide little to no benefits, disregard negative environmental impacts and provide poor working conditions (the list goes on…), then a vote for O’Leary would likely make Canada a strong competitor in the “race to the bottom”.

A bleak future

With the serious threat that issues such as climate change, wealth inequality and nuclear proliferation pose to the survival of the planet and its inhabitants, O’Leary’s desire to further the corporate agenda under the guise of bringing jobs back to Canada is deeply concerning.

Having undergraduate degrees in both environmental studies and psychology, as well as an MBA in entrepreneurship, it is evident that O’Leary didn’t learn anything about the importance of listening to climate scientists and supporting policies like the carbon tax, which help realize the negative externalities associated with an oil-dependent “free market” economy.

Instead of continuing to auction off Canada’s sovereignty to the very corporate entities responsible for packing up and leaving thousands unemployed, O’Leary and others like him should reassess their positions so as to make sure they serve the interests of the hardworking majority and not the opulent minority.

It is imperative that Canadians recognize that O’Leary is not a new alternative, but rather an unqualified businessman who will maintain and intensify the failed conventional methods used to address political, social, economic, Indigenous, and environmental issues. While O’Leary has been the individual under scrutiny in this particular piece, he is but another “cog in the machine” that has brought Canada, and other countries like it, to a point where issues facing real people can no longer be addressed by neoliberal nonsense.