Conservative Party leadership candiidate Maxime Bernier (left) looks on as Kevin O’Leary address a news conference in Toronto, Wednesday, April 26, 2017, after it was announced that O’Leary had quit the leadership race. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

O’Leary tried to convince Bernier to bail

O’Leary dropped bombshell into the leadership race Wednesday

OTTAWA — Kevin O’Leary may be gone from the Conservative leadership race, but he doesn’t intend to let himself be forgotten.

Instead, the reality TV star and businessman said merger talks were held Thursday between his campaign and Maxime Bernier’s to solidify a plan for the pair to work together between now and May 27, when the new leader is chosen.

O’Leary dropped a bombshell into the leadership race Wednesday when he declared he was giving up his candidacy because he didn’t see a path to victory in Quebec and would instead throw his support behind Bernier, a longtime Quebec MP.

Though, he told The Canadian Press in an interview Thursday morning from New York, he tried to make it happen the other way.

“I certainly said “Max, I’m killing you in the polls everywhere, let’s look at it. You’re not going to win the leadership,’ and he’d say, ‘you’re not going to win 30 seats (in Quebec)’,” O’Leary said.

Discussions included the idea of Bernier being given a position akin to a deputy prime minister, O’Leary said, but ultimately he accepted Bernier’s argument that such an arrangement wouldn’t persuade Quebec voters to back O’Leary.

“We went around and around and around,” O’Leary said. “The thing is, I deal in reality. He’s right.”

O’Leary, known for his stints on the reality business shows ”Dragons’ Den” and “Shark Tank”, remains a popular TV personality in the U.S. and dabbles in dozens of companies. None of that mattered in Quebec though, because there they don’t see him on TV, he said, and the fact he was born in the province didn’t count for much.

His decision to drop out wasn’t motivated by a desire to protect his personal brand from being tarnished by a loss, he said.

He said he’ll prove that by campaigning for the Conservatives from now until the next election to fulfil his original promise to unseat the Trudeau Liberals.

“I don’t need a job, I need to finish the task I started,” he said.

O’Leary said while he has respect for the achievements and campaigns of other candidates — he specifically mentioned Lisa Raitt and Kellie Leitch — he feels neither can achieve electoral success in 2019 because they share the same liability: they don’t speak French.

The fact O’Leary dropped out is an important lesson for everyone, candidate Michael Chong said in a speech to the Empire Club in Toronto on Thursday.

“He couldn’t win because he can’t speak French,” Chong said, according to a text of his remarks.

“And what that means is that any candidate in this race who can’t speak French can’t win.”

By Chong’s calculus, that means the only viable candidates are himself, Bernier and Andrew Scheer and he positions himself as the only one among them with policies that could actually win.

Scheer trotted out a new endorsement Thursday, saying he’s earned the backing of former P.E.I. MP and cabinet minister Gail Shea, who praised his understanding of the “diversity and importance of all the regions of Canada.”

O’Leary said that was among the things he failed to understand until it was too late.

In the interview, he said until he was really into the campaign, he didn’t grasp the complexity of the country’s regional dynamics.

It was a lesson he first received from former prime minister Stephen Harper in one of their talks, he said, but it became clearer as he criss-crossed the country.

O’Leary said that if the campaign with Bernier goes well, he hasn’t ruled out a run for Parliament in the 2019 election. He said he and his wife are going to continue learning French, aiming for immersing themselves for two weeks at a time, in places like Geneva, France or Quebec City.

“I have the bug, I really do,” he said.

“I loved it but it also broke my heart at the same time.”

Just Posted

WATCH: From humble beginnings Red Deer-based wrestling promotion is growing

It wasn’t that long ago that Dylon Featherstone and the Canadian Wrestling… Continue reading

WATCH: Families make yo-yos and weaved yarn at Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery

It was all about making yo-yos and yarn bombing at Red Deer… Continue reading

Solve mysteries with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in Red Deer

At three sold-out one act Sherlock Holmes plays in Red Deer, theatre… Continue reading

Quebec man arrested in slaying of Alberta woman 16 years ago

AIRDRIE, Alta. — A Quebec man has been arrested in the slaying… Continue reading

Construction underway at Medicine River Wildlife Centre in Red Deer

The new building is twice the size of the old one

WATCH Replay Red Deer Feb. 18: Your weekly news highlights

Watch news from Red Deer and Central Alberta

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Liberals looking at creating use-it-or-lose-it leave for fathers, Trudeau says

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is raising the idea of creating… Continue reading

Trump gets angry about election meddling, but not at Russia

‘Weirdest thing’: Trump expresses anger, but not over Russian election-meddling

New doping charge could hurt Russia’s chance at reinstatement

Russia could lose its chance to be reinstated before the end of the Winter Olympics because of a doping charge against curling bronze medallist Alexander Krushelnitsky.

#Metoo movement causing confusion in many men, fear of missteps with women: experts

Being painted by the same sweeping brush as those alleged to have mistreated women has angered men

Virtue and Moir break their own world record

Virtue and Moir break short dance record to sit first in ice dance at Olympics

Calgary man dies in Mexico following sudden illness

Troy Black was with his wife, Lindsay, in Puerto Vallarta when he began vomiting blood on Thursday

Life or death main decision for school shooting suspect

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The evidence against the Florida school shooting suspect… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month