O’LEARY HAS DROPPED OUT OF THE LEADERSHIP RACE!

Kevin O’Leary drops out of Conservative leadership race, will endorse Maxime Bernier

Former Dragons’ Den TV star believes he cannot defeat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in next election

By John Paul Tasker, Susan Lunn, CBC News Posted: Apr 26, 2017 1:24 PM ET Last Updated: Apr 26, 2017 1:44 PM ET

Kevin O’Leary, left, is dropping out of the Conservative leadership race and will back Maxime Bernier instead. (The Canadian Press)

Kevin O’Leary is dropping out of the Conservative leadership race and will endorse Maxime Bernier, multiple sources tell CBC News.

The businessman and reality TV star is ending his campaign only hours before the last leadership debate in Toronto, and two days before party members can start casting their ballots.

O’Leary is confident he could win the Conservative race, but now believes he cannot defeat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next election.

He has cited his failure to gain traction in Quebec and his poor French-language skills as reasons for dropping out of the leadership race.

O’Leary has spent the better part of his relatively short campaign — he entered the race in January — taking jabs at Trudeau, branding the prime minister “surfer dude” and calling his leadership a “disaster” for the country. He has also said Trudeau negotiating with U.S. President Donald Trump is like “Bambi versus Godzilla.”

O’Leary has not left his Conservative opponents unscathed, and, despite his expected endorsement of Bernier, the two candidates have sparred over allegations of membership fraud and vote buying. The Quebec MP called O’Leary a “loser” after he went public with concerns about vote rigging.

The former Dragons’ Den star, who now appears on the American show Shark’s Tank, has attracted considerable media attention, and polls had pegged him to be the candidate with the most votes on the first ballot.

Bernier has been a close second in those same polls and O’Leary’s endorsement could give him a significant advantage over the 12 other candidates still in the race.

The Boston-based pitchman has signed up some 35,000 members, largely based on his personal appeal and his promise to kill the national carbon tax, cut red tape and “unbridle” Canada’s natural resources.

O’Leary has been accused of not taking the leadership race seriously. During the campaign, he has spent many days in the U.S., selling his wares on QVC and offering commentary on U.S. cable networks.

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