VANCOUVER â€” Canadians should be asked in a national referendum if they want new pipelines so the issue can be settled once and for all, says businessman and TV personality Kevin Oâ€™Leary.
The question should be clear, Oâ€™Leary told CPACâ€™s Peter Van Dusen from the Conservative party convention, where he is testing out the waters for a possible leadership bid.
â€śDo you want to build pipelines to the East to West Coast of this country? Yes or No?â€™ If 51 per cent want to do it, we now have a moral mandate and we donâ€™t need to listen to squabbling politicians anymore, and we drive the process through,â€ť said Oâ€™Leary.
If he runs for the Tory leadership, Oâ€™Leary said his message will be focused on government waste and the fiscal direction of the country.
â€śFrankly, Iâ€™m pissed off and I want to do something about it. This is a good place to start,â€ť he said.
Oâ€™Leary said he bought a Tory membership some 48 hours ago before addressing delegates Friday afternoon as part of the conventionâ€™s showcase with other potential candidates.
Delegates greeted him warmly but some of his critics, such as Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, have been forthright in suggesting Oâ€™Leary isnâ€™t welcome in the Conservative tent.
To them, the TV personality had a pretty clear message:
â€śForget about the past, you just lost. That policy doesnâ€™t work. That history doesnâ€™t work. That message didn't work. This whole party has to reconstitute itself and get in sync with the voting constituency if it ever wants to have a control mandate again,â€ť he said.
â€śApparently ... Iâ€™m leading in the polls. Oh golly, what do I do with that?â€ť
â€śMany people donâ€™t agree with me. I donâ€™t care,â€ť Oâ€™Leary said. â€śIâ€™m interested in one thing and one thing only: changing the financial and fiscal policy of this country. Itâ€™s broken, itâ€™s incompetent, itâ€™s stupid, itâ€™s almost physically criminal in some cases. I canâ€™t stand seeing my money pissed away, and thatâ€™s exactly whatâ€™s happening.â€ť
Oâ€™Leary became a multimillionaire in 1999 when Mattel acquired his educational software company. He has gone on to a broadcast career as a financial commentator.
To those who fear an Oâ€™Leary run would mean a Donald Trump-like candidate in the race, he said he had no interest in selling an divisive message.
â€śI want this party to be an inclusive party. Thereâ€™s no wall in this country. Iâ€™m half Lebanese. Iâ€™m half Irish. I was born in Montreal, Canada. The greatest city on earth, in the greatest province in Canada,,â€ť he said.
Canadian businessman Kevin O'Leary speaks during the Conservative Party of Canada convention in Vancouver, Friday, May 27, 2016. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/CP)
The Tories canâ€™t â€śout-Liberalâ€ť or â€śout-kumbayaâ€ť Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, nor can they do more â€śsit-ups or selfies,â€ť but they can point out how his economic policy will â€śfail miserably,â€ť he said.
The best thing politicians can do for Canadians is get them jobs, he said.
No rush to make decision
Despite Obhraiâ€™s comments that Oâ€™Leary is better suited for the NDP, the outspoken businessman said he feels â€śwarmth and energy everywhere.â€ť
He boasted of an ability to reach 2.1 million Canadians weekly on TV, and said he could probably raise money â€śvery quicklyâ€ť if he wishes.
â€śLuckily, I have a lot of my own, so to the extent I can use it, I will,â€ť Oâ€™Leary said.
Canadian election rules prevent wealthy candidates from bankrolling their own campaigns.
Oâ€™Leary suggested he is in no rush to launch his leadership bid. Itâ€™s far too early for anyone to announce now, he said. But, he also told CPAC that he might decide to play the role of a kingmaker and help anoint somebody else.
â€śI could also make one of these people leader,â€ť he said, pointing to the convention floor. â€śApparently ... Iâ€™m leading the polls. Oh golly, what do I do with that?â€ť