O'Leary praises Bernier, won't rule out leadership run
Published Sunday, October 23, 2016 7:00AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 23, 2016 11:01AM EDT
Celebrity investor Kevin O'Leary says he's in no rush to get into the Conservative Party leadership race - and he’s a big fan of one of the other contenders.
O’Leary, the chair of O'Leary Financial Group and a Bell Media on-air contributor, has spent much of the last year musing about running for the Conservative Party leadership. With the first debate among the candidates less than three weeks away, O'Leary says he can be the last person to jump in.
"Pretty well everybody in Canada knows me," O'Leary said in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period.
"They don't necessarily like me, but they know who I am. So I don't face that big uphill battle of having to get my name out there.... That gives me a huge luxury to assess the field, make my own determination as to when and where, and simply wait."
But he hinted there’s already a candidate in the race who's promoting policies he would endorse: Quebec MP Maxime Bernier. O'Leary says Bernier’s a tough competitor simply because their thinking is aligned on many issues.
"It's hard to beat him up when I endorse what he's doing," O'Leary said. "He's shaking it up... he has a lot of good ideas."
Bernier is a libertarian who has proposed ending health-care transfers and giving the provinces the ability to tax people instead, slimming the income tax system to three brackets instead of five, ending boutique credits, and deregulating the telecommunications industry.
Favours Bernier, O'Toole, Scheer
O'Leary met with Conservative MP Tony Clement over the summer - prior to Clement leaving the race over financial concerns - and said he chatted with other possible leadership hopefuls during the Conservative Party convention last May. He says he's most impressed by Bernier, as well as MPs Andrew Scheer and Erin O'Toole.
"Three of them right now that certainly have traction. Traction by ideas, traction by fundraising, traction by people coming out to hear them speak," O'Leary said. "It's Scheer, O'Toole and Bernier."
"These are all good candidates with interesting proposals."
Scheer, the former House speaker, is a Saskatchewan MP who grew up in Ottawa. He's known as a social conservative, but says he wouldn't promote those issues if he were leader because they're too divisive.
O'Toole is more socially moderate, and a former Air Force member who represents Durham, Ont. O'Toole is widely respected for having taken over the Veterans Affairs file under the Conservative government and making progress after the previous minister mismanaged it.
After spending years on reality television before considering a move into politics, O'Leary is sometimes compared to Donald Trump. He says he's not convinced the election is over for the Republican presidential nominee, who has had several rough weeks amid allegations of sexual assault.
"Don't tell me Hillary's going to win. I don't believe it," O'Leary said.