Who deserves to be called “Canada’s Trump”?

Who deserves to be called "Canada's Trump"?

Kellie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary know a good thing when they see it. Donald Trump won the presidency with a mix of protectionist policy planks and vague, TV-friendly proclamations about how he’d restore the U.S. to glory. Now, these two aspirants to federal Conservative leadership want to see if they, too, can ride a wave of liberal tears all the way to the highest office in the land. Who’s the most Donald of the two? We break it down.

Kevin O’Leary

Current job: TV business guy Claim to fame: Is the “mean one” on ABC’s Shark Tank

Trumplike quality: Trashes his own party O’Leary has made it clear that he doesn’t “give a damn” about the Conservative party. “They’re losers,” he has said. More recently, he’s promised to turn his attacks on the Liberals. “It’s going to be ugly, you’ll hear a lot of bad things.” Trump level: 6/10

Trumplike quality: Built a business brand on bungles Donald Trump has a number of failed brand extensions under his belt—everything from a now-shuttered airline to a short-lived attempt to sell his own brand of meat. O’Leary’s first company, SoftKey, was no Trump Steaks—but it was a turkey. After SoftKey acquired educational software maker The Learning Company, it was sold to Mattel, at which point it immediately started hemorrhaging money. Mattel’s market cap was obliterated and O’Leary was fired six months later. He launched a mutual fund company, O’Leary Funds, in 2008, which kept losing customers until Canoe Financial acquired it in 2015. Trump level: 9/10

Trumplike quality: Makes vague promises to punish smug elites Last month, O’Leary promised to show off the big spatula he’d use to “scrape all that crap” out of Ottawa, proving that this Trump imitator comes with sad, ersatz versions of the president elect’s favourite metaphors. (And, if that’s how you’re using spatulas, something’s wrong.) Trump level: 4/10

Trumplike quality: Is his own biggest admirer O’Leary shares Trump’s passion for self-adulation—although, unlike Trump, O’Leary doesn’t have any towers upon which to bestow his surname. What he does have is an office in the Entertainment District, where he’s surrounded by images of himself. Trump level: 3/10

Trumplike quality: Is a prophet of doom Bad, terrible, couldn’t be worse: Trump’s fear-mongering gave him a foothold for a campaign based on the notion that America was weak and needed to be made great again. O’Leary is pulling the same tactic, albeit with a narrower focus on the “economic apocalypse.” He calls the Canadian economy an “abyss” and a “morass”; Trudeau is “killing our country” and the “dark and sinister force” of Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s principal secretary, is “destroying all the provinces.” Scary! Trump level: 4/10


Trumplike quality: Treats the leadership race like a reality show O’Leary and Trump have played very similar characters on their reality television shows, and the two stars understand one thing very well: the game is won by getting and keeping the audience’s attention. The villain can beat the hero, so long as he keeps things interesting. Canadian politics has always been full of sniping and pot-shots, but O’Leary is ramping up the insults. “It’s going to get extremely nasty out there,” he promises. Trump level: 7/10

Kellie Leitch

Current job: MP for Simcoe-Grey Claim to fame: Was the frontwoman for the Conservative party’s ill-fated “barbaric cultural practices” tip line

Trumplike quality: Powered by fear of outsiders Leitch found her place on the national stage in 2014, when she announced the Harper government’s plan to create a “barbaric cultural practices” tip line. She now wishes she’d used different, less-unpopular words. (Her new catchphrase is “anti-Canadian values.”) Like Trump, Leitch is tapping into populist xenophobia: 67 per cent of Canadians support screening immigrants for their values, according to a September Forum Research poll. Trump level: 9/10

Trumplike quality: Rallies racists and online trolls When Trump was elected in November, Leitch declared his platform an “exciting message that needs to be delivered in Canada as well.” One place Leitch’s version of the message can be found is on her Facebook page, which in November promoted a “revenge of the comment section” fundraising campaign. Leitch’s Trumpian talking points have resonated with Canada’s alt-right, winning her the endorsement of the Council for European Canadians. Leitch has said she’s “delighted” by the “wide range of individuals” supporting her. Trump level: 7/10

Trumplike quality: Is looking for a lift from fake news On January 2, Leitch’s campaign manager, Nick Kouvalis, tweeted that Justin Trudeau had provided $351 million to Hamas, which is not true. (The information appears to have been regurgitated from an equally false meme about the American government.) Kouvalis later admitted that he tweeted it “to make the left go nuts.” Trump level: 4/10


Trumplike quality: Says she wants to drain a metaphorical body of water Donald Trump was fond of promising to “drain the swamp” in Washington, and the phrase eventually became an applause line at his rallies. Earlier this month, Leitch let loose an email newsletter in which she promised to “drain the Canal of influence paddlers and lobbyists.” Which is ironic, in a Trumpian way, because Leitch has communicated with lobbyists more than any other leadership candidate except Lisa Raitt. Trump level: 6/10

The Verdict

Thanks to his bombast and his made-for-TV pedigree, O’Leary has a bit more of a Trumpish air about him at the moment. But a few more protectionist policy planks could easily regain Leitch the title of chief Trump disciple. (Or, apprentice?)


Sign up for This City, our free newsletter about everything that matters right now in Toronto politics, sports, business, culture, society and more.

By signing up, you agree to our terms of use and privacy policy.
You may unsubscribe at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


The Latest

Dear Urban Diplomat: My wife keeps stealing berries from our neighbour's tree

Dear Urban Diplomat: My wife keeps stealing berries from our neighbour’s tree