Last year, when Kevin O’Leary announced his bid for Conservative party leadership, it seemed like Canada was in for its own version of a Trump presidential run. O’Leary is a plain-spoken multi-millionaire businessman-slash-reality star with no political experience whatsoever. Sound familiar? Thankfully, O’Leary cut his run short last April, despite spending most of his time in the race at the top of the polls. As far as we could tell, it was over. Except now it turns out O’Leary owes the Conservatives about $500,000.
According to Elections Canada, the exact number is $529,184 but current EC rules prevent a candidate from putting more than $25,000 toward their own campaign (to avoid a Trump-esque self-funded run without other support). O’Leary told CTV that he has lobbied to change the rule — since he can obviously afford it to pay off the debt himself — with no success.
“It’s a bit of a perverse system. I think we should make a small adjustment to the rules and force people that end up in deficit to pay their bills, particularly to the small vendors,” O’Leary said, “I have the financial means to pay this off. I should’ve done it a long time ago.”
His debts are compounded from a number of small businesses and vendors that he owes for campaign activities. So how does a multi-millionaire raise some funds for a since-abandoned leadership run? By calling on his celebrity Shark Tank friends and putting them up in a castle, obviously.
Tuesday night, O’Leary announced that he will be hosting a fundraising event at Casa Loma in Toronto featuring a talk where he will “grill” Shark Tank co-stars Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran and then open the floor to attendees to ask questions of the sharks too. He says that he will match the amount raised at the fundraiser with donations to a charity that supports Canadian entrepreneurs (okay so he’s not exactly like Donald Trump).
What are the odds that Kevin O’Leary goes further into debt on his big event to pay off his campaign debt?
— Rob Silver (@RobSilver) January 24, 2018
“I want to help entrepreneurs in Canada,” he said, “I’d love to see Canada move forward. As a global investor, I’m very concerned about what I’ve seen happen over the last six months and I intend to be one heck of an agitator when we finally get to this next election because I see lots of problems brewing for our Mr. Trudeau and I can’t wait to point them out to Canadian voters.”
The problems he’s referring to over the past half a year are likely the number of trade snubs Canada has received as of late coupled with the economic growth they’re seeing south of the border. O’Leary is a big believer in the government deregulation and tax breaks that have been the quick work of the Trump Administration to fuel the U.S. economy. O’Leary cautioned yesterday that we could see a lot of businesses move south if Canada doesn’t come up with a way to compete.
“What we should be doing now is making sure that we become very attractive to capital from other countries,” he said. As interested as O’Leary appears to be in helping entrepreneurs in Canada grow their businesses, he’s less thrilled about Justin Trudeau’s approach to trade deals. The current PM is interested in making sure that he shares common human rights and environment values with the countries he signs agreements with. O’Leary only sees that as a setback.
“I’m just telling Canadians, ‘wake up and smell the roses.’ We should start thinking about being competitive.” So there’s your little glimpse into what a Prime Minister O’Leary would look like. We probably haven’t seen the last of it.