Kevin O’Leary, the latest entry into the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leadership race, was the main topic of conversation at Saturday’s leader’s debate in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The successful businessman and “Shark Tank” television personality didn’t disappoint his growing party supporters, saying, “Nowhere does it say you have to tolerate mediocrity. People are sick of politicians spinning them BS. That time is over, my friends. That’s why I’m in this race. ”
O’Leary claims to have enlisted 9,000 new party members and raised $300,000 (CDN) in just the first 10 days of his campaign. He’s widely seen as the front-runner in the race, with polls indicating that he could win a federal election if one were held right now. O’Leary faced 13 other candidates in his first leadership debate since he entered the contest about two weeks ago.
O’Leary was roasted as another potential “celebrity-in-chief” like current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by Ontario Member of Parliament (MP) Erin O’Toole, a former veterans affairs minister in the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper. “We don’t beat the celebrity-in-chief with another celebrity-in-chief.”
O’Toole told The Daily Caller on Sunday that he was particularly happy with the debate being held in Halifax because he was posted on the Atlantic coast while in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
O’Toole cautioned against voting for name-value only: “We don’t need a celebrity to lead our party especially when he supports the Liberals on most issues. We need a strong principled and experienced conservative to lead us to a win,” he said.
Former Labour Minister Kellie Lietch, who has been called “Trump-lite” by her left-wing critics, welcomed O’Leary to the Conservative party and joked that “there have been some news stories recently about non-Conservatives joining the party to stop me from becoming leader. I just never expected to be sitting beside one of them.”
O’Leary appeared nonplussed and refused to make any personal attacks against his colleagues. He concentrated on the policy issues that he has stressed so far in his campaign: “jobs, jobs, jobs” and economic growth.
Using an agricultural metaphor, O’Leary insisted that business requires “rich soil to plant the seed” for growth but noted, “You can’t even grow a weed here [in Atlantic Canada] any more.”
O’Leary’s populist appeal and tough talk often sounds like a Canadian-version of President Donald Trump — a similarity that his left-wing critics pounce on but that O’Leary has made no effort to dispute.
Follow David on Twitter