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“Details oriented”

The Conservative Party leadership front-runner’s economic policy unveiling was a mix of reasonable plans and “whimsical” promises

Kevin O’Leary wants 3 percent economic growth and a crackdown on pipeline protesters

Kevin O’Leary launched his economic plan on Friday, iterating his promise to get Canada chugging along at 3 percent growth by slashing taxes, building infrastructure, and getting energy projects built.

But the boisterous front-runner for the Conservative Party leadership, repeating an unofficial campaign slogan (“nobody said politics has to be boring”) in making a few less-conventional policy suggestions.

Over the course of the afternoon, O’Leary proposed building a domestic drone base on Prince Edward Island, repeatedly said that he would build new rail lines if it helped the domestic lentil industry, and somewhat jokingly said he would personally drive the bulldozer over anti-pipeline protesters.

As prime minister, O’Leary says he would cut the corporate tax rate from 15 percent to 10.

The event, held at the Empire Club of Canada in Toronto’s financial district, was billed as a major platform announcement. And, despite O’Leary’s Trump-esque persona, the plan has all the hallmarks of a centrist, pro-business Conservative Party.

As prime minister, O’Leary says he would cut the corporate tax rate from 15 percent to 10 and lower personal taxes to emulate the tax regime south of the border. On the much-maligned capital gains tax, O’Leary would keep it in place — except for companies that choose to reinvest at least 15 percent of their revenue back in Canada. While O’Leary billed it as an ambitious set of proposals, it’s actually far more modest than what some of his competitors in the race are promising.

O’Leary would also boost high-skill immigration to offset an aging workforce, especially for international students; create new rules that would require the government to review and remove old regulations; and encourage green-technology investment.

However, the former reality TV star made a few more outlandish comments during his event.

“We will ensure projects of national importance aren’t delayed by global protest groups and Hollywood celebrities,” O’Leary said. “Don’t come up here to Canada and chain yourself to a pipeline construction fence. If I’m driving the bulldozer, you might just get run over.”

When pressed by reporters afterwards, O’Leary said the comments — which were written into his speech — were meant to be “whimsical.” He added that if it were Jane Fonda chained to the fence, he might think twice.

“We could have 150 engineers, maybe put them on PEI, and patrol our borders,”

The candidate, who is thought to be the odds-on favourite to win the race, billed himself as “details oriented.” But, as VICE News pointed out in a scrum after the speech, his numbers are frequently misleading or inaccurate, especially when it comes to his claim that replacing the Canadian Air Forces CP-140 aircraft with drones would save Canada “$3 billion a year.”

But O’Leary balked at the idea that he got his numbers wrong. He recommitted to the idea of a domestic drone program — which Canada already has — and suggested putting the base in PEI.

“We should have a drone program. We could have 150 engineers, maybe put them on PEI, and patrol our borders,” O’Leary said.

Overall, O’Leary worked hard to tout his economic bona fides, contrasting them with the prime minister’s record, but the more ambitious thing in O’Leary’s speech was likely the rhetoric.

Cover: Illustration by Ethan Tennier-Stuart

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