Former front-running Conservative Party of Canada candidate Kevin O’Leary says he bailed from the race last week because he couldn’t deliver the majority government that he was promising his supporters.
The “Shark Tank” television star shocked the Canadian political establishment across the spectrum on Wednesday by announcing his candidacy was over and that he would be supporting his closest rival, Quebec Member of Parliament Maxime Bernier — who seemed at odds with O’Leary throughout the campaign. In an interview with The Daily Caller, Bernier dismissed O’Leary as “all slogans and buzzwords.”
“It would have been selfish to just go for the leadership and not deliver the mandate that I promised. I said if I can’t deliver a majority mandate, fire me,” O’Leary told CTV News on Saturday.
O’Leary’s campaign, despite being well-financed and generating tens of thousands of new members for the Conservatives, was beset with problems from the beginning. His fellow Conservative candidates were quick to criticize O’Leary for refusing to promise that he would seek a seat in Canada’s House of Commons if he won the leadership and openly wondered why someone vying for the leadership of a national party would keep his primary residence in Boston.
The cross-border entrepreneur was barely in the race for thee months before deciding he didn’t have enough support in Quebec to win a convincing victory against Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the upcoming 2019 federal election.
“I love the passion of politics but it’s really driven by the numbers,” said O’Leary, adding that he had tried to improve his numbers in Quebec for the past months but felt he had been unsuccessful. “You have to understand the delicacy of that ballet — half art, half science — on delivering a majority mandate.”
O’Leary’s apparent obsession with Quebec was questioned by former Conservative insider Jenni Byrne, who co-chaired two election campaigns for former prime minister Stephen Harper — the first was successful and the second catastrophic. She called O’Leary’s comments about Quebec “a convenient excuse” to leave the race, as the Conservatives have not enjoyed strong support in Quebec since Brian Mulroney took the province twice in 1983 and 1988.
“I think it makes for a convenient argument,” Byrne told CTV, “but it goes to the fact he actually fundamentally doesn’t understand politics in this country.”
O’Leary believes Bernier can win and claims the two agree on “nearly” every policy — with the exception of Bernier’s pledge to end Canada’s supply management system of marketing its dairy products.
Despite his connections in the U.S., O’Leary repeatedly said, “I will represent our country in the NAFTA trade wars.” Conversely, Bernier disagrees that any trade war is looming, saying that NAFTA will be successfully renegotiated because “we’ll have a good deal because it will be good at the end for Canada and for America.”