Kevin O'Leary sets sights on millennial vote ahead of possible leadership run
Celebrity investor Kevin O'Leary is setting out his strategy for taking the 2019 election - but first he has to decide whether he'll run for the Conservative Party leadership.
Published Wednesday, July 13, 2016 4:24PM EDT
Celebrity investor Kevin O'Leary is musing about how to target millennial voters.
"A lot of what Trudeau was very successful in doing was to give hope to millennials that they were going to find employment," he says on the phone from New York City, pondering how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won last October's federal election.
But youth unemployment remains high, which O'Leary sees as an opportunity.
"The frustration's starting to show up there and I plan to really mine that," he said.
The plan, O'Leary says, is to bring a private sector idea of accountability to politics, and tightly tie individual politicians to their results. In particular, he wants Canadian voters to measure three things: wage inflation ("If you're already working in your 40s, 50s or 60s, during the next 36 months you will get no increase in pay."), youth employment ("If you have a millennial living in your basement that voted for Trudeau and the Liberal government, they will be unemployed in six months and be very unhappy.") and the value of their homes.
O'Leary says he wants voters to connect those results to three people: Trudeau, Trudeau's principal secretary, Gerry Butts, and Finance Minister Bill Morneau. Butts isn’t a politician but has raised O’Leary’s ire by working for both a federal Liberal politician and an Ontario Liberal premier.
"That's how you win an election. You make sure those who created the policy take full ownership of it, and I'm going to help them do that," O’Leary says. "If things work out and these measures improve, Conservatives are not going to win anyway and Trudeau will continue on to a second mandate."
'I keep all my options open'
O'Leary, the chair of O'Leary Financial Group and a Bell Media on-air contributor, says he's still considering running for the Conservative Party leadership. He bought a membership and went to the party's convention in Vancouver last May, where he chatted with some of the other possible contenders. He's biding his time, figuring the months between October and January will be when the party's biggest names announce their bids for the leadership to be decided May 27, 2017 - if they decide to run. The contenders so far – Tony Clement and his caucus colleagues Kellie Leitch, Michael Chong and Maxime Bernier - are lesser known figures outside the Conservative Party. Most members are waiting to see if former defence minister Peter MacKay decides to return to politics following his departure a year ago for a Toronto law firm.
"I don't have a need to, at this point, declare, because there's no advantage," O'Leary says. "A, I don't need to raise money, and B, I already reach 10 million people a week."
"I keep all my options open."
The investor featured on Shark Tank says he's got a team of advisers on Canadian politics, though he won't name them.
"I've agreed with four of them to leave them nameless while I decide [whether] they going to be part of my inner strategy if I become someone who goes after the leadership," O'Leary said, though he allows they're "people you know that have been involved in both parties... they're people who have been involved in politics and business. I use them for guidance all the time."
What about his interns, who he says are young millennials active in politics? He laughs.
"The deal I made [is], until I declare, everybody remains nameless... You won't get any names out of me until I actually decide which way I'm going."
He's finding it very useful, O'Leary says, to feel out the nameless millennials regarding policy. They also seem to be helping him on the social media side of things: he expects to be on Snapchat in the near future.
"The key is you've gotta hire these young kids. These are the ones who know how to do it. So they're giving me the guidance. And what I love in my own office is to have the yin and the yang, the Liberal yelling at the Conservative. It's very healthy dialogue."