The Current

Kevin O'Leary, Kellie Leitch, test out Donald Trump-style tactics in Canada

Several Conservative leadership candidates are being compared to Donald Trump, but would a campaign similar to Trump's resonate with Canadians?
Kevin O'Leary's 'blunt talk' is compared to Donald Trump's oratory practices. (Reuters)

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Conservative Party leadership candidate Kevin O'Leary has drawn a lot of comparisons to the incoming American president Donald Trump. They're both businessmen with a penchant for publicity, and a talent for reality TV.

But the similarities don't end there. O'Leary, and other candidates, such as Kellie Leitch, seem to be employing Trump's campaign strategies.

"In terms of persona, style, appeal as an outsider … yeah that's the Donald Trump-playbook," testifies Campbell Clark, the Globe and Mail's chief political writer.

Jason Markusoff, an Alberta correspondent for Maclean's magazine, sees a bit of difference; O'Leary doesn't employ Trump's posturing on immigration, while Leitch lacks Trump's audaciousness.

"It's almost this interesting experiment that Canada's having. Which part of Trump appeals to people more — the immigration and border issues, or the loud brash businessman?"

Will Trump-style tactics win over Canadians?

Clark says that given the lack-lustre race for the Conservative Party leadership, O'Leary stands a chance.

There's excitement out there for something different.- Campbell Clark

Markusoff agrees that the "boring" conditions of this particular campaign renders it far more likely that O'Leary will build momentum.

"If he can really whip up a frenzy of excitement... We saw Donald Trump come from utterly nowhere to crush the competition in a relatively low Republican contest. So if he can pick that up he has a chance."

But Nora Loreto, a freelance writer and editor of the Canadian Association of Labour Media, says O'Leary has some barriers to overcome in appealing to Conservative voters.

"If he can't speak french, if he can't outline what his policies are ... then he's going to have a difficult time convincing Conservative voters that he's the one to beat."

Clark and Markusoff say that things will look very different in a national election, which necessitates broad appeal.

"I think things will start to change when conservative start to think about who can win a federal election," says Clark. 

"He comes across really mean … certainly the Trudeau brand of being a nice guy is popular, very popular," adds Loreto.

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this post. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Idella Sturino and Shannon Higgins.