On Tuesday, February 28th, the Conservative Party of Canada organised a bilingual leadership debate in Edmonton, Alberta.
Kevin O’Leary was nowhere to be found.
The candidate refused to take part in the debate, citing the format as his reason. Compared to the debate structure used at the Manning Conference in Ottawa a week earlier, the 14-person debate format makes for a painfully uninteresting exchange of ideas. A majority of the leadership candidates agreed that the Manning Centre allowed for more “real debate” than the scheduled format, however, the Party still continued with the scheduled format for the debate in Edmonton.
In response to the party’s decline of his proposal, O’Leary removed himself from the debate, choosing to pay a $10,000 fine using his supporters’ donations. O’Leary decided to host an “intimate fireside discussion” in Edmonton instead. O’Leary’s choice to remove himself from the debate is an elusive and foolish one in the final months of the race. This action demonstrates O’Leary’s inability to lead a party, let alone a nation.
According to O’Leary’s team, the format is the sole reason he dropped out. However, many Conservatives have rightfully accused his team of using this as a cover for his inability to participate in a bilingual debate. Montreal-born, O’Leary entered the race the day after the French-language debate held in New Brunswick and has since then, only participated in two debates – both being English-language debates. O’Leary has addressed his lack of French fluency and claims to be learning the language, however, that is not a justifiable reason to waste donation money and not participate in the leadership debate. If a student has a test and did not study, he can not just skip that test without repercussions. O’Leary’s avoidance of french speaking events portrays a lack of respect towards Francophones, French Canada, and the bilingual country as a whole.
Appearing on numerous TV programs, and co-founding large businesses, Kevin O’Leary has clearly attained a celebrity status over the years. While O’Leary may have a large say in his businesses and TV roles, he must abide by the party like every other candidate. The stunt of dropping out of the Edmonton debate demonstrates O’Leary’s reaction when things do not go his way. Even though 13 of the 14 candidates agreed the Manning Centre format was superior, they attended and participated in the party organized debate. O’Leary was the only candidate absent on Tuesday night. Just because you do not get your way, does not mean you can refuse to participate.
Kevin O’Leary has demonstrated his lack of respect for both the party and the bilingualism in Canada. He is entirely unfit to be leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.