Kevin O'Leary met with Andrew Scheer before backing Maxime Bernier
Shark Tank star met 2 leadership rivals as he planned Conservative leadership exit, sources tell CBC News
Kevin O'Leary praised Maxime Bernier on Wednesday as the candidate who best "mirrors" his policies, but CBC News has learned the reality TV star also held talks with another Conservative leadership candidate the night before.
O'Leary had an extensive face-to-face meeting with Andrew Scheer in Toronto on Tuesday night.
Multiple sources told CBC News the meeting went well and the two men got along.
Scheer apparently "pushed hard" for O'Leary's support, showing him a document of polling results and a path to success. Scheer also emphasized his ability to deliver Quebec in an election. In the end, O'Leary wasn't convinced.
- O'Leary's moment of truth: Talk with advisers led frontrunner to bow out
- Analysis After 99 days of O'Leary, is it Bernier's Tory time?
- Podcast: What Kevin O'Leary's exit means for the Conservatives
- O'Leary endorses Maxime Bernier
O'Leary told Scheer his reasons for dropping out were his lack of support in Quebec and the importance of the province to winning the election in 2019, the same reasons he gave when he spoke to the media yesterday.
"Look at how many times Quebec has determined the federal outcomes. It is the Florida of Canada, it often decides for the country. Trudeau has to go, and this is the man to replace him," O'Leary said at a news conference Wednesday as he endorsed Bernier.
No other 'serious' discussions?
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said O'Leary was frank with Scheer about his meeting with Bernier later the same night and that it would come down to a decision between the two as to whom he would endorse.
That is at odds with the message presented by O'Leary campaign chair Mike Coates, who told CBC News on Wednesday there were no "serious" discussions with any other campaign.
Coates said the campaign saw Bernier as something of an outsider or a disrupter within the party, a role relished by O'Leary, and believed he was a better fit to beat the Trudeau government.
According to sources, Scheer was disappointed with O'Leary's decision to endorse Bernier, but he does not see it as a huge blow to his campaign, because there's no guarantee O'Leary's supporters will decide en masse to vote for Bernier.
Who picks up O'Leary supporters?
O'Leary's team believes his supporters will scatter to remaining candidates, though it hopes at least one-third will vote for Bernier, which may give Bernier enough support to win on the first ballot.
That hasn't stopped others, including Scheer, from trying to poach some of the 35,000 members O'Leary claims to have signed up.
"To Kevin O'Leary's supporters across the country, who are no doubt confused and disappointed, you are welcome in my campaign. I'm a genuine conservative who will bring a new optimistic tone to our party to defeat Trudeau," Scheer said in a statement yesterday.
And during the debate last night, businessman Rick Peterson also had kind words for O'Leary.
"Anyone who sells those kinds of memberships and brings attention to our race is a valued Conservative member," Peterson said to applause from the audience.