Kevin O’Leary apparently doesn’t think politics is all that wonderful, at least in the short term.
The cast member nicknamed Mr. Wonderful on the hit ABC series Shark Tank unexpectedly dropped out of the contest for the leader of Canada’s Conservative or Tory party even though he was by far the favorite in the run-up to the voting. In an apparent attempt to be a kingmaker, O’Leary subsequently endorsed Maxime Bernier, a member of the country’s parliament from Quebec, for the leadership job.
“I’m out” is the signature catchphrase on Shark Tank when one of the sharks declines to invest in a company after a pitch, but on April 26, O’Leary told the Conservatives, in effect, “I’m out,” even though supporters had “invested” $1.5 million in his campaign.
On Saturday, after 13 ballots, Andrew Scheer narrowly defeated Bernier and will become the party’s leader and would-be prime minister going into the 2019 general election against incumbent PM Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party. Scheer and Bernier are both bilingual.
A father of five, Sheer is also a parliamentarian, but hails from Saskatchewan, and was Speaker of the House of Commons from 2011 to 2015. He was the youngest lawmaker in the country’s history to hold that position. “In his brief speech, Scheer, aged 38, making him younger than Trudeau and newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron, said he would get rid of the unpopular carbon tax enacted by the Liberal government and slammed Trudeau for being more focused on photo-ops than on the concerns of Canadian families,” Breitbart News explained.
Moving forward, Scheer will need to unite the conservative and libertarian wings of the Tories as well as attract non-conservatives to his column.
In January, the formerly apolitical O’Leary announced after much speculation that he was running for the Conservative leadership against 13 other candidates who were already in the mix.
Although the reality TV star has lived in Boston for about 20 years, he is a Canadian citizen with a residence in Ottawa.
Although it is not mandatory, Canada’s prime minister traditionally is an elected member of in the country’s parliament, the House of Commons. It would appear that O’Leary would have broken that mold. O’Leary, who said he wanted to bring business expertise to the government, has been very critical of Trudeau for what he considers mismanaging the economy and an inability to create jobs and has labeled Trudeau’s cabinet as well as a number of provincial leaders as incompetent.
The Shark Tank cast member, mutual fund chairman, and entrepreneur has an estimated net worth of $300 million. O’Leary starred in Shark Tank’s Canadian precursor, Dragon’s Den, and in addition to his high visibility in the U.S., he is a familiar presence on Canadian TV discussing politics and finance.
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Journalists had slammed O’Leary for his inability to speak French, which apparently is a prerequisite for a national political career in Canada. Of Irish and Lebanese heritage, O’Leary was actually born in French-speaking Montreal and was learning French during the campaign. In a late 2016 interview with Ezra Levant of the Rebel Pundit, O’Leary insisted that he speaks the most important language: the language of job creation.
“Number’s guy” O’Leary’s stated reason for dropping his candidacy in the leadership race as of April 26, even with victory almost within his grasp, was his unpopularity in Quebec which would prevent him from winning enough general election votes and thus seats in the parliament to lead the party to victory in 2019 with a majority in the Commons.
The Shark Tank star described Quebec as the Florida of Canada when it comes to a national election, CTV News reported.
In a detailed essay in the National Post of Canada, O’Leary’s former campaign chair Mike Coates suggested, among other things, that the celebrity businessman whom he described as a “brilliant communicator” and who resonated with millennials may not have been up for the grueling, meet-and-greet travel schedule and the relationship-building retail politics required of a party leader.
“Coates suggested O’Leary was ‘keeping his options open’ with his television career rather than going all in with the leadership race,” the Toronto Star noted. O’Leary told the Star that Coates’ article was “50 per cent factual and 50 per cent interpreted,” adding that he would have stayed in if he thought he could win on October 21, 2019.
The Liberals under legacy candidate Trudeau (son of former PM Pierre Trudeau) ousted Conservative Prime Minster Stephen Harper in the October 2015 general election after Harper and his party were in office for nine years.
Coates refrained from using one of O’Leary’s favorite Shark Tank slogans, “you’re dead to me,” however, in heaping praise on his former client for what the reality star brought to the table.
“He disrupted the campaign and forced all the other candidates to be bolder in their policy and communications. Candidates began adopting more effective social media as a tool for raising money and recruiting supporters, and they began to open the door on unconventional policy options about how we should govern this country…But most of all, Kevin showed the party what it would take to win over millennials, women, new Canadians and the LGBTQI community. Maybe some in the party didn’t like him for it, but activists know that the path to the victory in a general election won’t lead through a narrow definition of conservatism..I hope Kevin stays involved along the way to that general election…”
It remains to be seen if being perceived, fairly or unfairly, as a quitter will have any effect on Kevin O’Leary’s brand, particularly since he admitted he still has a bug for politics.
[Featured Image by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP Images]