Kevin O’Leary called Andrew Scheer’s win over Maxime Bernier for the Conservative leadership “absolutely surprising” but said it was the result of differing views on supply management.

According to O’Leary, a one-time Conservative candidate himself, Bernier’s opposition to supply management and the dairy quota system is what cost him the race and gave Scheer the upper hand.

“In Quebec, particularly, many voters went against Bernier,” O’Leary told CTV News Channel. “At the end of the day (it) was the 7,000 votes that differentiated these two candidates.”

Bernier had previously said that he’s opposed to Canada’s current supply management system that sets quotas and prices for different farming industries including milk and eggs. The Conservative Party of Canada’s policy currently favours supply management, which Bernier said he hoped to change at a future policy convention.

Scheer, on the other hand, ran on a platform that supported and defended party policies, including supply management.

On this, O’Learly said, “It shows you the power of that issue that remains today in politics. It was a stunner.”

Bernier led all 12 ballots leading up to the 13th and final ballot, when Scheer narrowly won with 50.95 per cent of the points against Bernier’s 49.05 per cent.

“I really was blown away by the process,” said O’Leary. “It became clear that that divisive issue was the one that cost Bernier the leadership.”

“The key…is who can beat Trudeau”

O’Leary told CTV News Channel that he decided to drop out of the Conservative leadership race because he didn’t think he could win the election.

“I thought I could win the leadership but not win the election,” said O’Leary. “The key to this whole thing is who can beat Trudeau in 2019.”

According to O’Leary, a self-proclaimed “student of the numbers,” he decided to step away from the Conservative leadership because he didn’t see himself winning enough ridings in Quebec, with “as few as five or six.”

While Harper was able to grasp the 2011 election with only five seats in Quebec, O’Leary said the circumstances are different. At that time, Jack Layton was leading the NDP and won the vast majority of seats in the province while the Bloc Quebecois took another four ridings, taking Quebec out of the equation.

According to O’Leary, a turning point was when some Conservative caucus members asked him, “How selfish are you?” and told him to instead drop out of the race and endorse someone who could win seats in Quebec.

“I thought Bernier could get as many as 35 seats in Quebec but I didn’t have that option,” said O’Leary. “And was I able to learn French in 15 months to do a technical debate with Trudeau? That’s a risk.”

However, O’Leary doesn’t see himself ending his foray into politics

“No,” O’Leary laughed. “I’ve got the bug.”

Though, he added he has a new found respect for candidates who spend months running campaigns.

“I have a new garnered respect for the people that do this and have been doing this for a long time. Particularly a shout out for Kellie Leitch who has a work ethic I’ve never seen in a woman before.”

O’Leary added, “I kept running into her in towns all over Canada at four, five, six in the morning. I was blown away by her focus and determination.”