News | Kevin O’Leary comes to McGill

Conservative McGill event sees heavy police presence in SSMU building

Television personality and businessman Kevin O’Leary spoke in the ballroom of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) last Monday as part of his campaign to win the ongoing Conservative Party’s leadership race. The post is currently being filled by interim opposition leader Rona Ambrose, who replaced Stephen Harper as leader of the Conservative Party when Harper stepped down after substantive Conservative losses in the 2015 federal election.

“The Donald Trump of Canada”

Kevin O’Leary has long occasioned comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump. Both men are billionaires who gained mainstream fame through reality television and subsequently launched political careers despite possessing no formal political experience.

Like Trump, O’Leary’s campaign has shown him to be unabashedly populist with little emphasis on policy, while often being out of touch with Canadians. He was also recently criticized for posting a video of himself at a gun range during a funeral for the victims of the recent shooting at a Quebec City mosque, and has been ridiculed for his past refusal to participate in French-language debates, saying that instead of French, he speaks “the language of jobs.”

Heavy police presence on campus

The SSMU building was swarming with security personnel in the hour leading up to the start of the event, as organizers hoped to prevent protesters from interrupting O’Leary’s address. In the end, McGill security and the police kept all protestors outside the building.

Kevin O’Leary has long occasioned comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump. Both men are billionaires who gained mainstream fame through reality television and subsequently launched political careers despite possessing no formal political experience.

Meanwhile, it appeared that many of the event’s attendees were not actually members of Conservative McGill, but rather undecided voters getting a first look at a potential nominee. Two attendees, who asked to remain anonymous, discussed their interest in O’Leary’s speech in an interview with The Daily.

“I think the thing about elections,” said one, “is it’s not the party that you subscribe to, rather it’s listening with a critical mind to each side and picking what best represents you as a Canadian.”

“I live in Alberta, where we are in a recession,” explained another, “so as a young Canadian I find it inspiring that he wants to focus on the economy. The one place where I am critical of Kevin O’Leary is that he seems to lack the social views, which would normally lose my vote in this case, but I guess we’ll find out what he says today.”

O’Leary speaks

O’Leary’s address painted a different picture of the Conservative Party than many may have been used to. The candidate claimed that he wished to see the party opened to people of all faiths, races, and sexualities, and called himself a “conservative expansionist.”

He made it clear that he sought to win the Canadian youth vote by declaring his support for LGBTQ rights and marijuana legalization.

“I think the thing about elections is it’s not the party that you subscribe to, rather it’s listening with a critical mind to each side and picking what best represents you as a Canadian.”

O’Leary’s primary focus, however, was the economy. He struck a critical tone with regard to the Trudeau administration’s policies, and promised to abolish the “Carbon Tax” as his first action if he were to become Prime Minister.

“My entry into this race occurred hours after I read that document by the Trudeau government that told me that for the next thirty-eight years, this country would run deficits, so by the end the people of this country will be $1.5 trillion in debt,” he claimed.

O’Leary has, in the past, shown himself to be heavily critical of government regulation and intervention, his pandering to small-government conservatives and theatrical mannerisms all the more reminiscent of Trump.

Q&A

O’Leary opted to host a question and answer period, accepting a number of attendees’ questions. Some asked him how he would differentiate himself from Donald Trump, others asked him about the environment, others still asked about his positions on relevant issues facing Canadians.

One attendee, Sophia, a law student at McGill, asked O’Leary “If you become Prime Minister, will you divest yourself from your businesses to [….] reassure Canadians [about potential conflicts of interest?]”

O’Leary alleged that if he become Prime Minister, he would put part of his investments into a blind trust, and that any remaining portion of his assets would be liquified.


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