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Kevin O’Leary: Rebel without a (notwithstanding) clause

Of the many messages embedded in the humiliating health-care defeat suffered by Donald Trump, perhaps none was more significant than this one: as U.S. President, you're not as all-powerful as you think.

It was quite the comeuppance for a demagogue not used to being put in his place so publicly. If nothing else, it showed that all the tough talk he was famous for on the campaign trail doesn't amount to a hill of beans in the real body politic of Washington. It was a vivid illustration of just how ignorant Mr. Trump and his advisers were about the way in which things actually work, at least in practical political terms.

Which brings me to this side of the border and the Conservative party leadership race, where candidate Kevin O'Leary is making the kind of brash, provocative and often embarrassingly ill-informed comments that Mr. Trump became known for during his run to the White House.

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His most recent bit of absurdity concerns asylum seekers crossing into Canada in a bid to escape the Trump-ordered crackdown on illegal immigrants. Mr. O'Leary said he would invoke the "notwithstanding" clause in the Constitution to force those seeking sanctuary in Canada back to the U.S.

Almost immediately, the suggestion was mocked and denounced by constitutional experts who said section 33 of the Charter was not in any way applicable to the problem he was trying to solve.

For subscribers: Hot air: The truth about Kevin O'Leary's business history

This is not the first time Mr. O'Leary has shown his naiveté regards to how things operate in this country. Earlier, he said he would not let any province get in the way of his vision for economic development. This would include forcing Nova Scotia to end its ban on fracking, which has been in place for a few years now.

Last week, he said he would demand Alberta terminate its carbon tax, suggesting that if NDP Premier Rachel Notley didn't, he'd cut transfer payments. In making his proclamation, the Conservative candidate unleashed a torrent of vitriol in Ms. Notley's direction, stating that she was a "vicious, poisonous, toxic cocktail of mediocrity [and] incompetence, put together."

This is someone he would potentially have to sit across from and work with at a First Ministers' conference.

In an interview this week with the National Post, Mr. O'Leary boasted about the "new form of federalism" that he wants to usher in, one that focused on his economic agenda. He said he would "coerce" provinces into doing things his way, using every "leverage and fulcrum" at his disposal. Mr. O'Leary said he also plans to overhaul the country's equalization system, and would no longer just hand money over to the provinces without terms and conditions.

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We could go on, but I've probably wasted enough of your time already with this man's idiocies.

Kevin O'Leary doesn't have a clue how the country he hopes to govern one day operates. Not a clue. While his delusional fantasies about how he would rule his kingdom may fly with members of the Conservative base, they are not rooted in any kind of reality. In fact, they are so detached from it, alarms should be ringing everywhere.

Mr. O'Leary has no more chance of ordering the provinces around than he has of running a four-minute mile. Federal governments in this country (and none more so than those under Stephen Harper) have spent decades now devolving power and responsibilities to provincial authorities, not consolidating them in Ottawa. Perhaps Mr. O'Leary hasn't heard about what happens when a political leader sitting in the nation's capital tries to tell a western province such as Alberta how it's going to be.

Even more humorous is envisioning relations between a federal government under Mr. O'Leary and Quebec, particularly when he informs the province how it has to spend transfer payments that are unconditionally guaranteed under the Constitution.

It is increasingly evident that Mr. O'Leary is employing a Trump-like strategy to say anything that might help him win the leadership of his party, no matter how foolish and impractical these utterances are.

But with each passing day, Mr. O'Leary mostly demonstrates why he's a would-be politician not to be taken seriously.

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About the Author
National affairs columnist

Gary Mason began his journalism career in British Columbia in 1981, working as a summer intern for Canadian Press. More

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