Kevin O'Leary still hoping for a future with the Conservatives

Former Conservative leadership hopeful Kevin O'Leary reflects on where he fits in to the Conservative Party's future, why he's not worrying about his campaign debt right now and what he thinks of the Conservative caucus.

'Some people have disdain for politicians. Not me anymore. I understand now how difficult that job is'

When Kevin O'Leary announced he was dropping out of the Conservative leadership race in April, he said he still hoped to be an 'economic adviser' to Maxime Bernier if he won. He didn't, but O'Leary still has some thoughts about the party. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

As Andrew Scheer rallies his brand new team of shadow ministers to try to defeat the Trudeau government, Kevin O'Leary is sitting on the dock of his cottage in Muskoka, toes in the water, pontificating about politics and what role he might have in Scheer's Conservative Party.

O'Leary had hoped to be leader, until he decided to drop out of the race. Then, he threw his support behind Maxime Bernier and offered to be an "economic adviser" when Bernier won.

But Bernier did not win. O'Leary says he still speaks to some MPs and party executives, though it's still not clear to him precisely how he fits into the party's future.

The man who seems to thrive on bold statements also shared his thoughts about how Scheer might win the next election "by default," what he thinks of the politicians in the Conservative caucus and why he's not doing any work right now to deal with his hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign debt.

I enjoy a huge social media base and I was part of the process that got us to where we are today and I'm proud of that.— Kevin O'Leary

The man who calls himself Mr. Wonderful does show some flashes of humility when asked about his future with the party. He doesn't need a title, he told CBC News. He just wants to help get the message out about what he sees as the failures of Justin Trudeau's government.

O'Leary even refers to himself as just "a cog in the wheels" of the effort to help the Conservatives form government.

But wait. There is a 'but" coming.

"But I enjoy a huge social media base and I was part of the process that got us to where we are today and I'm proud of that. "

And what about that social media fame? Does he have any suggestions for Scheer as the new leader tries to build his own name recognition?

"I think Andrew Scheer can just continue to be Andrew Scheer. He may default into leadership because if we can all focus together on the failures of the Liberal policies, the alternative is Scheer. Middle of the road. Family man."

O'Leary said he still keeps in touch with some folks in the Conservative party, though he hasn't spoken to the new leader recently.

"We had a lot of dialogue right after the race, obviously. Not much during the summer. I've talked to other MPs, I'll leave them nameless. But also party executives. I'm trying to figure out how I can be helpful and they're doing the same thing."

O'Leary said he will be a voice for Scheer, if that's what Scheer wants.

Debt can wait

O'Leary ended the leadership race with significant campaign debt. His lawyers have suggested it's about $300,000.

The businessman and star of reality TV show Shark Tank said he hasn't done any fundraising since then.

"Nothing has changed. Small amounts have trickled in, but there's no material change."

O'Leary said that is by design. He wants to wait until the new year and approach people who have already donated the maximum possible amount to him this year.

"They can re-up. And that's where the majority of my money will be coming from. Because they're business associates that I went to in the first place, that I do business with every day."

In the meantime, he said, he's called all the vendors he owes money to, to explain the situation. He's still disappointed that the rules require him to raise money through donations, rather than just letting him paying out of his own pocket.

What he really thinks of Conservative MPs

O'Leary applauds Scheer's picks for his critic portfolios. He also has some thoughts about the Conservative caucus as a whole. 

Without naming names, he said he would divide them into three groups.

One-third are "highly skilled beyond the tactics of being a politician. Really impressive." People he would hire.

Another third, he said, are career politicians. People he now respects a lot more than he used to. He refers to politics as "a calling."

"Some people have disdain for politicians. Not me anymore. I understand now how difficult that job is."

Then, there's that final third.

"Now to the last third. Happenchance [sic] that they're there. Through some strange twist of fate they got elected. I'm not saying that they're bad people, but that's the way I look at it."

And perhaps he will eventually wind up in caucus with all of those groups. O'Leary said he's still considering running for a seat in Parliament in 2019.

About the Author

Catherine Cullen

Parliamentary Bureau

Catherine Cullen is a senior reporter covering politics and Parliament Hill in Ottawa.