O'Leary committee sees 'clear path to victory' for Conservative leadership
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, January 12, 2017 10:16AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 12, 2017 9:27PM EST
Kevin O'Leary says an exploratory committee has "identified a path to victory" for him in the race for leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada.
O'Leary, the celebrity investor and chair of O'Leary Financial Group, has been flirting with the possibility of a leadership bid for several months, but has yet to formally throw his hat in the ring as a contender for the job.
"There is a yearning for someone who is not a career politician," Mike Coates, chair of the exploratory committee and a conservative strategist, wrote in the report Thursday. "As a proud Canadian businessman, O'Leary will offer real leadership to jumpstart the economy and create growth."
More than a dozen candidates have already entered the race and participated in debates, including former cabinet ministers such as Kellie Leitch, Lisa Raitt, Chris Alexander and Steven Blaney.
In a video posted on Facebook Thursday, O'Leary said he will take a few days to consider the report before making a decision. "When you get involved in politics, it's a tough road," he said. "You don't want to do it unless you think there's a high probability of success."
Although he stopped short of declaring his candidacy, O'Leary frequently spoke about what he "will" do in the days ahead. For instance, he hailed the other candidates in the race, saying: "My plan is to take their best ideas to Ottawa." He added that he will consider the exploratory committee's report in the next few days, "and then start this journey with you."
In the video, O'Leary condemned what he called "the insanity of spending" under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying: "He's not a bad guy, he's just never run a business."
O'Leary added that he is "the only candidate that can take on Trudeau and help him find his ultimate destiny, because it's not running Canada, that's for sure."
O'Leary has faced pressure from other Tory candidates to make a decision soon, so he can participate in the first French-language debate on Jan. 17. O'Leary hails from Montreal but does not speak French.
"Fish or cut bait," leadership contender and former House speaker Andrew Scheer said last week.
Raitt also has O’Leary in her sights. The former transport minister launched the website StopKevinOLeary.com last week. On Thursday, she issued a statement accusing him of flip-flopping on his support for a carbon tax and for threatening to ban unions.
“Donald Trump won by bringing union members to the Republican Party and Kevin O’Leary will do the exact opposite,” Raitt said. “Instead of criticizing our workforce I want to work with businesses and workers to create jobs and lower taxes,” she added.
O'Leary is sometimes compared to Trump, who went from business tycoon and reality TV star to future leader of the United States.
But O'Leary, who stars in the U.S. reality TV show "Shark Tank," has said the similarities are limited to their experience, and they do not reflect his approach to policy.
"I'm half-Lebanese, half-Irish," O'Leary told CTV News Channel last month, in a discussion of Trump's immigration policy. "If we were building walls, I wouldn't even be here."