Kevin O’Leary, federal Conservative Party leadership candidate, right, answers questions during a campaign stop in Nanaimo Friday afternoon. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

Kevin O’Leary quits leadership race

Kevin O’Leary to quit Conservative leadership race, support Maxime Bernier

Celebrity investor and reality-TV star Kevin O’Leary is quitting the federal Conservative leadership race and throwing his support behind Quebec rival Maxime Bernier.

O’Leary said despite his front-runner status nationally, he doesn’t have the kind of support in Quebec he thinks he needs, not just for the leadership but for the next general election.

“This is obviously very disappointing for me. As someone who was born in Montreal, I had hoped I would do much better there,” O’Leary said in a statement Wednesday, only hours after informing his campaign team of his decision.

O’Leary said he is supporting Bernier because the longtime Quebec MP’s policies mirror his own.

“He is perhaps the first Conservative in a long time that has a chance of winning over 40 seats there, which would materially improve our chances for a majority mandate,” O’Leary said.

“So here is what I’m going to do; I’m withdrawing my candidacy from the leadership race and throwing my full support behind Max.”

Bernier, for his part, has scheduled a news conference in Toronto for later Wednesday, where the candidates are scheduled to face each other in a final debate showdown before next month’s vote.

A lack of facility with French was always considered one of O’Leary’s greatest liabilities.

As for assets, O’Leary had plenty: instant recognition, thanks to years of television exposure; a public image as a savvy financial manager; and a brash, no-nonsense, outsider approach that echoed the unlikely ascent of U.S. President Donald Trump.

He had promised to talk up the Canadian economy and trade in a way he complained the current Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had failed to do.

“If Trudeau isn’t beaten in the next election, he will leave the next generation of Canadians, those thousands of millennials I’ve been talking about, with a mountain of debt and high taxes. This cannot be allowed to happen,” O’Leary said Wednesday.

“The Conservative party needs someone who has the best chance of beating Trudeau. Someone who will command the support of Canadians from every region of the country and who can build a consensus among all members of the party.”

Prior to Wednesday, O’Leary had offered no hint that he was considering dropping out. Three hours before announcing the decision, he sent out a fundraising letter to his supporters.

The party has already started mailing ballots to party members, and O’Leary’s name is included. His campaign claims to have signed up just over 35,000 people, and there’s no guarantee any or all will agree to back Bernier.

The winner will be announced May 27.

Just Posted

Pedestrian killed on Highway 22 Saturday evening

Police say 51-year-old man died after being hit by car

UPDATE: DriveBC says highway re-opened after accident

Highway 22 closed for seven hours on Saturday

Forestry workers set to begin job action in Kootenays

Operations in Castlegar, Cranbrook, Galloway, Elko, Radium, Golden may see job action this week.

Métis Flag flies in Trail on Louis Riel Day

Area students, officials and public attend flag raising at Trail City Hall

Early Trail borrowed a couple of names from the U.S.

Place Names: Connection between Trail and Butte, Montana

Saving salmon: B.C. business man believes hatcheries can help bring back the fish

Tony Allard worked with a central coast First Nation to enhance salmon stocks

High-end B.C. house prices dropping, but no relief at lower levels

But experts say home ownership remains out of reach for many for middle- and lower-income families

Worker killed in collision at B.C. coal mine

Vehicle collision occurred at approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Canadian dead more than a week after plane crash in Guyana: Global Affairs

Global Affairs said it couldn’t provide further details on the identity of the Canadian citizen

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

Most Read