Kevin ‘Shark Tank’ O’Leary to Enter Politics

'Mr. Wonderful' said he will run for prime minister of Canada

It may be time to create a new political term: Trump Syndrome. Following President Trump’s unprecedented electoral victory, well-known Canadian businessman Kevin O’Leary has announced he is running for prime minister of Canada in 2019.

O’Leary is best known as “Mister Wonderful,” the bluntest of the “sharks” on the popular ABC television program “Shark Tank,” on which entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to five wealthy investors. O’Leary indirectly referenced President Trump as an example when he told Fox411, “What’s occurring not just in Canada, but globally and in the U.S., is people don’t want politicians as leaders anymore. They want people that have a track record of executional skills. I’m not a politician and, as a result, I think voters and taxpayers are looking for change-makers.”

O’Leary told CNBC of current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s fiscal failings, “All [Trudeau’s] policies on corporate tax, carbon tax, tax this, tax that, are completely out of sync with the U.S.”

He added, “He should have used the Trump election to basically pivot. He didn’t do that.”

O’Leary also teased that — should he be elected in Canada — his partnership with Trump as president would be like, “This is going to be ‘Shark Tank’ versus ‘The Apprentice’ Smackdown, coming to you in 2020.”

While O’Leary and President Trump differ on many issues, they are united by their fiscal conservatism and business acumen. In O’Leary’s official statement, he focused entirely on economic issues, criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for breaking his promise of balanced budgets and instead forfeiting “our children’s futures under the burden of unbalanced budgets for the next 38 years, leaving the country $1.5 trillion in the hole. In this nightmare, Canadians will soon spend the majority of their tax dollars paying interest on money spent long before their time. This is Trudeau’s curse of debt.”

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Just like President Trump, O’Leary has leveraged his success in popular culture to elevate his own stature. Not many knew who he was before “Shark Tank,” either here or in much of Canada. Now he’s a star and commands mainstream press attention.

Unlike other members of Parliament who are not well-known across the board (or even a governor here in the U.S.), O’Leary now instantly rises to the top of the field because of his notoriety. He already has an audience that he can speak to and who will listen to his ideas. He doesn’t have to earn anyone’s trust as far as being a good steward of taxpayer money — he’s demonstrated his acumen on television for several years.

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More than that, however, his persona is one of being brutally honest with people and dismissive of ideas that have no value. Capitalism is a meritocracy. What he has communicated repeatedly on the show is an understanding of how to deploy capital with limited risk and earning a good return. Taking that same attitude toward government investment would be a breath of fresh air for Canada — and even here in the U.S.

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O’Leary has shown great savvy in how he presents himself publicly. On “Shark Tank,” he’s brutally honest but not foul-mouthed. He is dismissive, but not rude. He is a gentleman, but a tough sell. In personal interviews, he is not a loudmouth or vainglorious. He’s as straight a shooter as they come, and that plays well in politics because it is so rare.

The television personality’s move indicates an important sea change in the culture wars. President Trump has, of course, been playing the media for fools for decades, leveraging their ineptitude for his own benefit all the way to the White House. O’Leary may be primed for the same.

O’Leary, who still appears on “Shark Tank,” told CNBC that he plans on investing more and more time into politics as time goes on. “I’m going to be the leader of the Conservative Party for the next three years,” he told “Fast Money Halftime Report.” “And basically, that gives me a flashlight of transparency to make his (Trudeau’s) life hell.”