Kevin O’Leary Admits ‘Shock Value’ Behind One Controversial Comment

Kevin O’Leary made it official that he’s running to eventually become Prime Minister of Canada, inciting a visceral reaction from his competitors for the leadership of the Conservative Party. As the Inquisitr reported previously, Lisa Raitt, the country’s Opposition Critic for Finance, launched a website directly targeting the television personality, using some of his public statements as ammunition.

But O’Leary has recently stepped back from at least one of those controversial comments, admitting on a Reddit AMA last week that it was done strictly for shock value and the ratings bump offered by television. His comment was that unions should be illegal. It was an eyebrow-raising opinion, especially considering that unions are well-established in Canada and that O’Leary himself is the step-son of a former official with the International Labour Organization, a United Nations body dedicated to the rights of workers.

“This was said to be provocative on a television show and as you can appreciate, shock value brings in ratings and viewers. I believe unions can be beneficial to their members and have their members best interests at heart.”

When pressed during the AMA about what statements voters should believe and which they should disregard as simply made to shock, O’Leary seemed to say that the words that come out of his mouth from now on are the ones most trustworthy.

“The day I declared my bid for Leader of the Conservative Party is the day Kevin ‘the Dragon’ went silent. When I am travelling the country and meeting Canadians I want them to know I am listening to them and want them to believe in me the same way I believe in Canada.”

Although best known to U.S. audiences as a panelist on Shark Tank, O’Leary was on the show’s Canadian predecessor Dragons’ Den along with Robert Herjavec for many years. For a time, O’Leary was on both shows simultaneously.

O’Leary also defended his French-language ability during the Reddit AMA, saying he continues to work with a tutor to improve his bilingualism. Although born in Montreal, O’Leary has lived in the U.S. for many years and did not participate in a French-language Conservative Party leadership debate earlier this year.

Weakness in French, however, is not a reason to assume O’Leary won’t rise to the mantle of Conservative leader, according to The Globe and Mail. In a column published Sunday, John Ibbitson said an official confirmed O’Leary spoke French until moving away from the city at the age of 7 or 8 and has been working intensely to get his French up to speed. According to the column, O’Leary is expected to participate in a French debate on Monday.

His campaign for leadership included a stop at the campus of the University of British Columbia, where he took questions from students in a pub. O’Leary confirmed his support for the legalization of marijuana and members of the LGBTQI community. According to campus paper The Ubyssey, when asked if he would legalize all drugs, he was unequivocal in his response.

“No. There’s some bad s*** out there.”

O’Leary, to fans of both Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den, is all about the money — but he won’t discuss his actual monetary worth. In a lengthy profile published last fall in Toronto Life, O’Leary implied it was a detail to which he’d never actually fess up.

“My mother taught me it’s bad karma to boast about wealth.”

The Conservative Party of Canada will choose its leader from more than a dozen candidates, including Kevin O’Leary, this May 2017. The next federal election in Canada is scheduled for 2019.

[Featured Image by Mark Davis/Getty Images]