On March 20, Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leadership candidate and reality TV star Kevin O’Leary spoke at the Bahen Centre for Information Technology for an event organized by Generation Screwed, the student wing of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
O’Leary signed a pledge committing to balancing the federal budget in two years if elected Prime Minister. Regarding his expectation for the upcoming federal election, he stated “2019 will not be an election, it will be an exorcism” — an expression of his confidence that he will secure the Conservative leadership.
O’Leary spoke about the unaffordability of school and the lack of job prospects as motivating him to sign the pledge, referencing students and graduates living in their parents’ basements. O’Leary stated to the cameras, “not only is Trudeau screwing you, he is screwing your children.”
His message contrasted approaches to leadership, referring to Prime Minister Trudeau as exhibiting “weak leadership by any measure.”
He also spoke about the importance of Canada being competitive with its southern neighbour. This would include matching the U.S.’s tax-cutting policies and elimination of carbon taxing. However, he did not say that this would be a reaction to the U.S.’s direction in policy, instead stating that he would wait and see what the U.S. does, and then emulate it if successful.
He also referred to Jim Flaherty, the late Finance Minister under the Harper government, as an inspiration for his fiscal policies and the kind of legislative era that he wanted to return to.
When a comparison between himself and President Trump was drawn, O’Leary noted his personal history of and stance on immigration — having Lebanese and Irish heritage — as sharply contrasting those of the US President. He also proposed that skilled workers, such as engineers and computer scientists who are affected by the American travel ban, be encouraged to come to Canada to foster more business and innovation.
When his lack of experience in office was raised, he spoke to the necessity for people with demonstrated track records to be elected into office because of their leadership skills, regardless of whether or not they come from a political background.
The Conservative leadership candidate touched upon other issues such as the movement of refugees from the US into Canada and the conditions that they endure while crossing the border.
When The Varsity asked him about any policies that he plans to present with regards to this issue, O’Leary mentioned that there would be a more detailed press release on the matter later in the week.
When specifically probed about the Safe Third Country Agreement — an agreement between the US and Canada that limits refugees to making a claim in only the country of the two to which they first arrived — O’Leary spoke of the possibility of Canada developing its own policy to control the flow of migrants from the U.S. if Washington disagreed with his approach.
When The Varsity asked whether O’Leary had plans to garner multi-party support for his policies on migration and other matters if elected, the candidate simply stated “we’re going to win a majority.”
With regards to allegations of vote buying by Conservative leadership candidates, O’Leary’s response asked for a greater focus on transparency in politics and disavowing the actions of the associated staffers.
He did not detail a plan for addressing these discrepancies in the future or further investigating whether other CPC members are affected.
O’Leary also spent a few minutes taking pictures with supporters, even signing a book for one eager attendee. Though Generation Screwed is itself non-partisan, O’Leary urged attendees to register as members of the CPC.
One such participant, Eden O’Shell, heard about the event through Facebook and recently started following O’Leary’s campaign because of its heavy news coverage.
“Arrogance at times is fun, but as long as you can back it with action, that’s what matters,” said O’Shell, referring to O’Leary’s public personality.
Renaud Brossard, the National Student Coordinator for Generation Screwed, mentioned the group’s plans to reach out to NDP candidates to sign the pledge, adding “It’s great to see candidates care about students’ futures.”
Mack Blyth, the head of U of T’s branch of Generation Screwed, ended the event with the following sentiment: “I don’t want us to get involved in the brand of celebrity politics that the Liberals are engaged in.”
Last month, Generation Screwed held a conference on campus featuring Rebel Media founder Ezra Levant and psychology professor Jordan Peterson, which was disrupted by protestors.
The Conservative leadership election will take place on May 27.
Editors’ Note: This article has been updated to include a more accurate description of the Safe Third Country Agreement.