Conservative leadership hopeful Kevin O'Leary says the prime minister has ended up with a mediocre cabinet because he was more concerned about diversity than competence.
O'Leary said he believes diversity and gender parity is important in government, but if elected, he would balance that diversity with competence.
The businessman-turned-reality-TV-star said Justin Trudeau prioritized diversity over who was most qualified for the job.
"Trudeau made a mistake with that mandate. He talked about diversity, diversity, diversity and he never used the word competence," said O'Leary in a phone interview with The Canadian Press.
Kevin O'Leary said he believes diversity and gender parity is important in government, but if elected, he would balance that diversity with competence. (Photo: Getty Images)
"He has built up a caucus and a cabinet full of incompetent and mediocre leaders because he only listened to the siren call of diversity without even looking at competence."
In his first cabinet of 30 ministers, Trudeau said he appointed an equal number of men and women "because it's 2015."
On Wednesday — International Women's Day — Trudeau touted his cabinet's diversity in the House of Commons in an address to young women participating in Daughters of the Vote, a program that promotes female participation in politics.
"We had undertaken to have equal representation of men and women in our cabinet and we held true to this promise. When I was asked why we had decided to proceed this way, I said we were in 2015, and now 2017. But there's more to be said than that," said Trudeau, speaking in French.
"After our group was formed, the decision to name as many ministers who were women as men was criticized. Pundits and people who were commenting on the Internet would repeat that merit should be the reason for choice, not being a woman. Well, I can assure you that merit was the basis of our choice."
'I want competence'
In his interview, O'Leary noted that "not some, but all" of his returns in the private sector have come from companies run or owned by women.
"Women do a better job in risk management in private sector. They do a better job of time allocation... They do a better job in setting goals. They achieve their goals over 90 per cent of the time. So, of course I'm going to bring women into work in government," said O'Leary in the interview on Tuesday.
"I don't have a problem bringing women into large files. I want competence."
O'Leary, one of the perceived frontrunners in the crowded Conservative leadership race, said he'd be happy with a cabinet that's 70 per cent women so long as they were competent.
"I know Canadians know the difference between reality TV and policy."
O'Leary's past has come under scrutiny since announcing his candidacy, notably an incident in which he touched the buttocks of a woman who was appearing on CBC's Dragons Den.
But O'Leary said he doesn't think that will deter women from supporting him.
"I know Canadians know the difference between reality TV and policy," said O'Leary, who was on his way to campaign in London, Ont.
"You can ask any of the women I've invested in how I've been as an investor or a chairman or providing capital. I'm very proud of my track record and I'd put it up against Trudeau's any day of the week."