Kevin O'Leary quits Conservative leadership race, supports Maxime Bernier

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The Canadian Press confirmed O'Leary is making the announcement later today, with few hours to spare before the remaining candidates face off in a final debate showdown before next month's vote.

"I worked really hard and I couldn't move the needle" in Quebec, O'Leary told reporters, standing next to Maxime Bernier, a former foreign minister whose candidacy O'Leary said he would support. He's supporting Maxime but I can't support Maxime.

The Conservative party said Tuesday there are 259,010 members eligible to vote.

"O'Leary is now backing Mr. Bernier", Albas said. His campaign claims to have signed up just over 35,000 people, and there's no guarantee any or all will agree to back Bernier.

The news comes as a shock to Conservative candidates and supporters, as O'Leary was considered a frontrunner for party leadership.

Had he become the Conservative Party's leader, and the party took enough seats in Parliament, he would have had a shot at becoming the country's prime minister. He can continue to fundraise to pay off any campaign costs, and says he will fundraise with Bernier.

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O'Leary himself alluded to this in a statement on Wednesday, saying, "Because I am an outsider, I have very weak second-ballot support".

But everyone mostly saved their fire for Bernier, the pile-on heaviest over the MP's bedrock pledge of abolishing supply management, an issue that's leapt into the national spotlight anew after catching the attention of U.S. President Donald Trump who has said he wants it gone too. "O'Leary has helped to raise interest in the leadership race, and drawing new members to the party".

He said Quebec is the "Florida" of Canada, in terms of its importance in determining the outcomes of elections. O'Leary's campaign manager, Mike Coates, is one of the best operatives in the business.

"It is the Florida of Canada", O'Leary, who had struggled to learn French in time to boost his chances against Bernier, in reference to the province's history of determining the outcome of Canada's federal elections. Only hours earlier, the iPolitics weekly Mainstreet poll of some 2,100 Conservatives had O'Leary growing three points from the previous week to 26 per cent, Andrew Scheer moving into second place at 17 per cent, and Bernier slipping to third at 14 per cent.

"It's an opportunity to go and court the voters who were ready to make their first choice Mr".

"I'm in a unique situation", O'Leary said.

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