Canadian businessman Kevin O’Leary is mulling a decision to jump into the Conservative party leadership race, but he could be a tough sell for voters considering his time spent in the U.S, say some experts.
But O’Leary, perhaps best known to Canadians as a panelist on Dragons’ Den, said it’s still early.
“I look at is as I’m the party of the loonie and I’m getting worried now that Canada doesn’t have good stewards taking care of it’s economy either at the provincial or the federal,” he told Global News on Friday. “I listen to a lot of political babble these days that isn’t creating any new jobs.
Currently the Conservatives are led by Rona Ambrose and a convention to find a permanent leader is still 18 months away.
If he does make the leap into Canadian politics some experts believe his time spent in Boston, a place he has called “home,” could carry some serious baggage.
O’Leary owns property in both Toronto and Boston, but in a 2013 interview with Boston Magazine said “Boston is home.”
WATCH: Kevin O’Leary discusses the possibility of him jumping into politics
“From the experience with Michael Ignatieff, some people are concerned about political figures who are able to pursue their professional opportunities in the States and then see Canada as a political playground,” said Ryan Hurl, lecturer of political science at University of Toronto.
In the 2011 federal election the Conservatives attacked the former Liberal leader for his time spent abroad teaching at Harvard.
Hurl says that while he believes Canadians have become more comfortable with the notion of transnational citizenship, history has a way of repeating itself.
“Just as it was a problem for Michael Ignatieff, if [O’Leary] is actually serious about pursuing this he will probably find out his attachment to Boston will be problem as well,” he said.
O’Leary said his work in both the U.S. and Canada makes him a perfect candidate to manage that relationship.
“I’m a Canadian resident. I pay my taxes in Canada,” he said. “I happen to work on American network television and I have a lot of businesses in both Canada and the United States. I’m a perfect candidate to manage the most important relationship we have.”
An investor on ABC’s Shark Tank, O’Leary is known as an outspoken and bottom-line driven television personality.
Earlier this week he promised to inject $1 million in the Canadian oil industry if NDP Alberta Premier Rachel Notley resigns. The statement led many to compare O’Leary to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.
“We’ve both been involved in television and enjoyed some interesting careers there, but that’s where the similarities end,” O’Leary said Thursday
Tim Powers, a political strategist and current vice chair of Summa Strategies, says while O’Leary is no stranger to controversy he doesn’t see him becoming the “Ignatieff of the Conservative party.”
“It’s hard to accuse him of just visiting,” said Powers, referring to a 2011 Conservative attack ad against Ignatieff. “For all his bombast and brashness he has made and spent and continues to invest in Canada.
“Although the political acumen of O’Leary is yet to be tested,” he said. “Getting elected by any party is tough thing to do.”
Powers said while it’s far too early if O’Leary is a serious candidate, his polarizing effect could bring out new voices in the Tory leadership race, which is “a good thing for any party.”
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