Brett Wilson endorses Kevin O'Leary after Arlene Dickinson's scathing column
He's not politically correct, but he won't kowtow to vocal minority, says former Dragons' Den star
One former Dragons' Den star is defending a second after an unflattering critique from a third.
Brett Wilson says Arlene Dickinson's opinion column on Kevin O'Leary is unfair because it fails to draw a distinction between O'Leary as a reality TV show contributor and who the man really is.
O'Leary announced he was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada on Wednesday.
- Arlene Dickinson on Kevin O'Leary's entry into Conservative leadership race
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Wilson, who continues to be a business partner of O'Leary's, shared his thoughts with CBC News Thursday. Here is an edited version of that conversation.
Q: What has inspired you to weigh in?
A: I happen to think that the rudeness that came out of, again, intended or otherwise, attacking Kevin was misguided. I stepped up and said, "You know what? I'm not necessarily certain that some of the things that [Arlene is] saying are fair," because the television persona for many people is first of all edited, and it's exaggerated.
The thought that Kevin has no heart — Kevin was the only dragon who stepped up to help me on one of the donations that I made. Kevin's was the first cheque I asked for when we supported Breast Friends.
It seems wrong for either Kevin or Arlene to be sitting in judgment of each other.
I'm on the outside not running for office. I'm a businessman. I love poking every party. I've taken shots at [Justin] Trudeau, at [Rachel] Notley and of course at the provincial Conservatives and the federal Conservatives. I'm free to comment.
Q: Contrast O'Leary the television persona with who he is as a business person.
A: Kevin's a rogue. He's going to be a provocateur. He's going to, as he said, shine the light of transparency on every issue.
One of the things I really like is, he's going to bring attention to first of all the Conservative race, and then second to politics in Canada as a whole. Those are good things regardless of whether you believe in his approach to business, or life or his personal life. None of that really matters.
Now, having done business with him, he's a promoter. Let's be clear. He's an extraordinary promoter, and that's called marketing.
When we rolled back the onion, opened up the books and took a look at the files on the O'Leary Funds, we closed on that deal instantly. It was clean.
He knows how to run a business. He's a marketer. I get it. Now, he's got a rough side. He's been pretty tough on people. There isn't a Conservative, there isn't a Liberal in the country who hasn't made some mistakes in front of the microphone. Our prime minister just said he wanted to phase out the oilsands. Where did that come from? What was he thinking? That would be the stupidest, rudest comment that Western Canada could ever have heard. We let that go.
Kevin said some provocative, controversial things. I'm going to let those go in the context of where are we today, and where are we going.
Q: O'Leary's track record as a business person has been in the spotlight. What do you make of the criticisms?
A: Did Mattel blow up because they bought the Learning Company? Maybe. But guess who sold it to Mattel? Kevin. That's not a bad business strategy.
I've got some businesses. I had another one go bankrupt last [month]. We've all got our failures. Most important thing is, what do you do when you stand up? Where do you want to lead? Where do you want to take the country?
I love a lot of the things that Kevin wants to argue. I'm supporting Kevin, but I'm also supporting two candidates in the Conservative Party of Canada.
Q: Are you endorsing Kevin O'Leary?
A: Today I would endorse Kevin O'Leary, absolutely, because I want to see him in the process. Remember, we're talking about the leadership of the Conservative Party. We're not talking about the prime minister of Canada. That's going to be a different conversation.
Q: What should people consider about Kevin O'Leary in light of his leadership intentions?
A: I'd like [them] to consider the fact that he is maybe a little politically incorrect, but he's willing to take on the tough issues without kowtowing to the vocal minority. I love Kevin's approach.
With files from Allison Dempster