For most Canadians, Kevin O’Leary is associated more with creatures with sharp teeth than politics—or he was, until he began musing this week about running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. The investor and TV personality, featured on Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank, spoke to Maclean’s in a wide-ranging conversation about a number of topics—here’s a sneak peek of the full conversation, which will appear in our magazine and online this week.
On the problem with the low dollar
“Most of the dollar is people’s perception—whether they want to invest in Canada. You can’t invest in Suncor, you can’t invest in Canadian oil sands unless you want to translate your dollars into Canadian dollars. You have American dollars, you want to translate them into Canadian, you have to buy Canadian dollars. When there’s no demand to buy Canadian dollars because there’s no interest in investment in Canada, the dollar falls. There’s a lack of confidence at the provincial level in the largest sector.
“Sixty-three thousand people have lost their jobs since the beginning of that government’s tenure. That’s a fail and I’m speaking out about it. I’m speaking out about it as a concerned Canadian, who cares about his country, its competitive advantages that have been lost in the global market, and what concerns me even more is the lack of confidence of young people coming into the economy that they’ll ever have a job in Canada that’s viable or long-term, a career.”
On the wisdom of government money for Bombardier
“Imagine the federal government thinking about giving money to Bombardier—a single company that’s probably one of the most mismanaged aerospace companies on Earth, just look at the stock price—and not even caring about an entire industry [the oil sands]. The largest industry in Canada. The feds are broken too. All of this is happening at the same time, giving a lot of people like me as investors a lot of concern.”
On whether he lives in Canada
“I returned to Canada in December of 2010. I live there, it’s my residence, I pay tax there. I have homes in America and many businesses, as well as a family that lives in Switzerland. I am a Canadian resident, taxpayer, voter, citizen.”
On how a changing electoral system could affect the Conservative Party
“We don’t know yet if we’re going to be moving into ranked balloting—which would be supportive of a single leader of the Conservative Party—or more of a proportional representation, which could end up splitting the party and you’d end up with two factions, the old progressives and the Reform Party, with two different leaders and you’d have to form a coalition to manage the country, to get a majority.”
On government stewardship of public funds
“Pick the last 20 years of projects in Ontario just around energy and show me one that came in on budget. Show me one. Or why don’t you look at the facts and see the billions wasted in projects started there, never even finished? I could give you many, many more examples. It’s just a fact. We don’t have to debate it. Nor should we expect our government to act as the private sector. It’s incapable of doing that. That’s not what it’s there for. It’s here to set the policy of the country and let the private sector operate in the most efficient and competitive way it can. That goes to taxation too.”