Over the weekend, European media reported that Stronach, who founded the Magna International Inc. empire, will announce formal plans in late September for a new party that will call for Austria to exit the troubled Eurozone.
When the Star asked for an interview Monday through Magna’s headquarters in Aurora, his assistant said Stronach was not in the office and not available.
It is a daunting task to start any new political party, but experts say Stronach may just be able to pull it off.
“I cannot predict that he would be successful, but I would be very reluctant to dismiss him,” said Aurel Braun, a professor of international relations and political science at the University of Toronto.
In an interview with Germany’s online publication Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten, Stronach is quoted as saying: “The key positions (in the party) have already been assigned. The program has been agreed.”
In another interview with Vienna-based Die Presse newspaper on Sunday, Stronach says he will be front and centre as a candidate in the 2013 parliamentary elections, and has set a target of getting 10 per cent of the vote.
“Ideally, every party would like a majority,” Braun said. “But it’s highly unlikely.”
In that situation, if a party has a specific program, it or parts of it could be implemented if those votes are critical to form a governing coalition, he added.
Braun, who is a visiting professor at Harvard University, said Stronach has a high profile, especially in Austria, where his companies are well-known and he has made substantial charitable donations.
In a speech in March to students at Wirtschafts University in Vienna, online publication Austria Today reported that Stronach outlined three main challenges for Austria including its national debt, a complicated tax system and bloated bureaucracy in business. Stronach has repeatedly urged young people to get engaged in politics.
Earlier in the spring, there had been speculation that Stronach might help the BZÖ, after he spoke of plans to invest “several million euros if I get the feeling that there are the right people with the right political program.” But talks reportedly fell apart.
Stronach, who has dabbled in horse breeding and racetracks as well as Austrian football clubs, is certainly no stranger to politics, having once talked about running for the Liberal party leadership. He ran federally in York-Simcoe in 1988 for the Liberals, but lost to Progressive Conservative John Cole.
His daughter Belinda, who had sought the Conservative Party leadership, was elected to Parliament as a Tory MP in 2004, but she later crossed the floor to join the Liberals and serve as human resources minister in Paul Martin’s cabinet.
Stronach’s tale of success has often been told of how he came to Canada in the 1950s with very little, and built one of the world’s largest auto-parts makers. He started with a one-man tool and die shop called Multimatic in Toronto’s west end.
Magna employs more than 100,000 workers in 296 factories and 88 research centres in 26 countries.
He stepped down as chairman last year. A Stronach family trust collected about $ 863 million in cash and stock last year after selling off the company’s controlling block in a controversial transaction.
With files from Star wire services and Dylan Robertson
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