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Globe editorial: Donald Trump’s act is failing, so why is Kevin O’Leary still copying it?

Since the 1980s, Canadian prime ministers have adopted various brands of federalism: executive (under Brian Mulroney), muscular (Jean Chrétien), asymmetrical (Paul Martin) and open (Stephen Harper).

Now Tory leadership hopeful and professional famous person Kevin O'Leary is putting his version in the shop window: coercive federalism. Or is that gun-to-the-temple federalism?

The populist businessman believes that, as PM, he would be able to force the provinces into dancing to Ottawa's tune on a vast range of priorities.

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In doing so, Mr. O'Leary is selling himself as the all-powerful embodiment of change, who can succeed where others have failed through sheer force of personality and cutthroat haggling. This is the Big Man theory of political leadership, espoused most recently by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The fact is, Mr. O'Leary is doing a poor imitation of a failing act. For someone who spends so much time in the United States, he appears to be unaware of recent news events in that country.

Mr. Trump's Big Man approach is falling apart with surprising swiftness. His failure last week to repeal his predecessor's health-care act is only the latest evidence of that.

It turns out that rank populism and take-it-or-leave-it negotiating tactics deployed by a neophyte politician with shallow roots in his party's governing ethos have their limits.

So while it's true the PMO has more influence than the White House over federal government affairs – the prime minister holds sway over the legislative process; a president, as was plainly illustrated last week, does not – Mr. O'Leary either doesn't grasp its limitations or is content to exaggerate them.

If he were a better student of history, he would also know what tends to happen when Ottawa bullies the provinces.

The deadline for selling memberships in the Conservative Party has now passed, and those who have signed up in time will start thinking in earnest about who will make the best leader.

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Mr. O'Leary is oblivious to the Trump Show's sagging ratings. Here's hoping the Tory rank-and-file is watching more closely.

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