US & Canada

Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary drops out of Tory leadership race

Entrepreneur Kevin O'Leary attends the 2015 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 22, 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Entrepreneur Kevin O'Leary is jumping into the Conservative leadership race

Businessman and reality TV star Kevin O'Leary has unexpectedly dropped out of the leadership race for Canada's Conservative Party.

Mr O'Leary said he had failed to gain support in the French-speaking province of Quebec.

The Shark Tank and Dragons' Den star is now supporting prominent Quebec politician Maxime Bernier for leader.

Mr O'Leary has been likened to US President Donald Trump for his TV and business background and brash manner.

Mr O'Leary said on Wednesday his lack of popularity in Quebec made it near impossible to beat Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next general election in 2019, even if he were to win his bid for leadership of the Conservatives.

Party members vote for a new leader on 27 May.

French-speaking Quebec is Canada's second most populous province, but Mr O'Leary spoke mostly English.

He skipped all the party's French-language candidate debates.

During the race, he faced criticism for skipping other debates and then popping up on US cable news.

He was also dinged for spending too much time in the US since launching his short-lived bid was launched in January.

Mr O'Leary said his US television punditry served Canadian interests.

"I am probably the most known Canadian that's on American television, and I'm going to talk about what we mean to Americans and how we should be considered in trade wars," he said.

There are 13 other contenders left in the crowded race to replace former Conservative leader Stephen Harper, who stepped down as party leader in November 2015 after losing the federal election to the Trudeau Liberals.

Mr O'Leary, a millionaire businessman, was seen as a self-promoting political outsider with no experience in elected office.

He has taken to referring to Mr Trudeau as a "surfer dude" on Twitter.

His support for Maxime Bernier, a former foreign affairs minister and free-market libertarian, may give him a big boost in a crowded race.

The party says it has sold an estimated 150,000 new party memberships since January, with Quebec support driving growth.

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