D’Amato: Tories won’t be tempted by O’Leary’s sweet lure

Taken from: Waterloo Region Record

There’s a well-known experiment called the marshmallow test.

A child is offered a choice: You can eat a marshmallow right now, or wait 20 minutes and get two marshmallows instead. Researchers at Stanford University in California found that the child who waits will grow up to be more successful.

Now, imagine it’s the federal Conservative party that’s being tempted with the sweet, chewy reward of Kevin O’Leary.

A colourful reality-TV star, O’Leary is often touted as “Trump lite.” He’s the best-known, most outrageous candidate for leader in a crowded field, if that rings a bell.

O’Leary casts himself as an outsider to politics. He has said he doesn’t need to learn French and that it’s a “waste of time” trying to get a seat as a Member of Parliament. Some think he is the only one who could match Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for star power.

It’s all great fun. But it’s not going to work for the Conservatives.

Canadians are just not as easily intoxicated by the Trump cocktail of salty populist talk, promises of job creation and blaming of elites and immigrants.

Unlike the United States, this country has control over its borders. We welcome immigrants because we choose them. When the economy goes bad we are better protected with social services and decent, free health care. We have less threat from terrorism.

Wilfrid Laurier University political scientist Barry Kay points out that the balance was tipped for Trump by specific counties in the Midwestern rust-belt states like Michigan and Ohio.

In those counties, he said, there were much higher suicide rates, drug addiction rates, more economic dislocation, and homeowners were more likely to find that the value of their mortgage outstripped the value of their homes. That level of misery isn’t as high here.

“There’s as good a chance that one of the moderates will win as O’Leary,” said Kay.

Meanwhile, the choice for leader is being made by Conservative party members, not Canadians as a whole. And the party must think about strategy as well as showmanship, if it wants to return to power.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper governed Canada for 10 years by balancing social conservatives and moderates within the party, which allowed him to win key seats in the suburbs around Toronto.

Kitchener-Conestoga’s Conservative MP, Harold Albrecht, said he is looking to support someone “who is one of us and leads from within” and also has “an ear for the grassroots” in caucus, which Harper did very effectively.

O’Leary’s lack of a seat is “a handicap” for Albrecht.

Then there’s the fact that O’Leary doesn’t speak fluent French. That’s a deal-breaker.

An Anglophone candidate who doesn’t speak French is saying that Quebec doesn’t matter. That’s not only insulting to Quebec, it’s troubling for other parts of the country who understand how fragile Canada’s unity is.

The Conservatives have spent many years in opposition. They know a thing or two about biding their time.

That’s why they’ll resist the easy route and wait for a better-behaved, better qualified leader, like Michael Chong or Andrew Scheer, to build up momentum. Even though their mouths may be watering right now.