- Reuters/Gus Ruelas
“Shark Tank” star Kevin O’Leary is dropping out of the Canadian Conservative party leadership race and endorsing a rival.
O’Leary pledged to be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “worst nightmare,” when he threw his hat into the ring in January, and likened Trudeau negotiating with President Donald Trump as “Bambi versus Godzilla.”
But his plans haven’t panned out. In a Wednesday afternoon statement, O’Leary said beating Trudeau in the 2019 election would be a “huge challenge.”
“This was not an easy decision for me to make but after much thought and deliberation, it is the right one for the Conservative Party and the country,” O’Leary said.
O’Leary’s argument was couched in a complex aspect of how Canadian elections work.
Canadian elections are indirect, meaning that Canadians vote for a specific party in their riding – which is similar to a district – rather than directly for the person at the top of the ticket. The leader of the party that wins the most seats in Parliament forms a government.
Quebec, with 78 seats, has historically been an uphill battle for the Conservative Party. O’Leary said that he’d have to expand the Conservative party base of support in the province to have a shot at contesting Trudeau, except there’s one tricky detail: He doesn’t speak a lick of French.
“I’m a numbers guy,” O’Leary told reporters on Wednesday. “And the likelihood of gaining a lot of seats in Quebec is low.”
O’Leary explained that he’d have to win at least 30 seats in Quebec, and the Conservatives only held 12 seats after the 2015 election that installed Trudeau’s Liberals in power.
- Reuters/Christinne Muschi
“I was singularly unsuccessful in my outreach there,” O’Leary said. “I really worked hard to move the needle.”
He caveated this by saying he had a “high probability” of winning the Conservative leadership race, but that it wasn’t “the right thing to do for the party” if he could not realistically beat Trudeau.
“I worked like hell on this campaign,” O’Leary said, though he has come under fire from other Conservative candidates for not taking the campaign seriously as he appeared numerous times on QVC, the shopping channel, to hawk his wares, notes CBC.
O’Leary threw his endorsement behind Maxime Bernier, a Member of Parliament from Quebec, on Wednesday.
“I want the DNA of my policies and objectives to survive into the general election,” O’Leary explained. “The candidate that best mirrors my policies is Maxime Bernier.”
While appearing amicable during the Wednesday afternoon press conference, O’Leary and Bernier traded barbs on the campaign trail.
“Kevin O’Leary is a loser,” Bernier said in a March 17 email to supporters, per CBC. “I’m a winner.”
The Conservative Party elections are on May 27.