The new leader of Alberta’s Conservatives is attacking Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Kevin O’Leary. Jason Kenney, a former high-profile minister in the previous federal Conservative government, says the cross-border television personality and business tycoon might speak “American English” but his lack of proficiency in French makes him ineligible to lead the national Conservative party.
Canada is an officially bilingual country.
Kenney, who was widely touted as a natural successor to previous prime minister Stephen Harper, recently won the Alberta leadership contest and hopes to move the party firmly to the right.
Kenney’s solid conservative credentials didn’t prevent him from lambasting O’Leary for the “Shark Tank” star’s recent rage against the current Alberta premier, Rachel Notley, who is easily the most left-wing first minister to ever lead the usually hard-line conservative Western province.
Last Thursday, O’Leary called Notley a “vicious, poisonous, toxic cocktail of mediocrity and incompetence who requires an extreme amount of adult supervision.”
Meeting with the Postmedia editorial board on Tuesday, Kenney said O’Leary’s language was not “helpful or useful.”
“There needs to be a consistent standard of rhetorical responsibility across the spectrum and I don’t think Kevin O’Leary is helping in that at all. I think his comments are over the top,” he said.
O’Leary has also vowed to “coerce” the Canadian provincial governments to adopt his economic plans, saying in a Monday interview that he dreams of a “new form of federalism” and a “new tonality for government” that many critics see as fundamentally undermining Canada’s system of competing federal and provincial governments and possibly being unconstitutional.
Kenney says he can’t even comment on the potential consequences of such a policy because “I don’t actually understand what it is he’s proposing to do.”
But Kenney said O’Leary disqualification to be the leader of the federal Conservatives — whether he is a front-runner not — is based on what Kenney says is his lack of bilingualism.
“I think he speaks American English, if that counts, but I don’t think he speaks French,” Kenney said of O’Leary, who is under increasing attack from other leadership contenders for keeping a home in Boston and continuing to work on his ABC TV program even as he campaigns to be the next leader of Canada’s official opposition.
Kenney was an early member of the Western-based Reform Party that eventually merged with the Progressive Conservatives to form the new Conservative Party in 2004. He was a Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2016 and served in a number of ministerial portfolios, including national defence and immigration.
Though he has struck O’Leary from his list of federal Conservative leaders, Kenney has not endorsed any candidate.
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