Kevin O’Leary will not take the stage at Tuesday night’s Conservative leadership debate, choosing instead to host his own event. If this all sounds familiar, it might be because Donald Trump did pretty much the same thing one year ago.
The businessman and aspiring politician — known best for his reality TV career — said on Monday he would not face off against his Tory leadership opponents in Edmonton because he doesn’t like the format of the debate. O’Leary is hosting a “fireside chat” in Edmonton instead. It takes place at the Westin Edmonton in the Turner Valley Room starting at 6:00.
In January 2016 Trump skipped a Republican debate and held an event the same night dubbed ‘Special Event to Benefit Veterans Organizations.’
Trump said he wanted to take part in the GOP debate, but that he had to stick to his guns since he was boycotting the debate’s host, Fox News, due to poor treatment.
“I didn’t want to be here, I have to be honest. I wanted to be about five minutes away,” Trump said the night of the debate.
“You know what, I don’t know, is it for me a good thing, a bad thing, will I get more votes, less votes? Nobody knows, who the hell knows.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Trump-less GOP debate pulled in poor ratings — and we all know how things turned out for Trump.
O’Leary, who has been accused of trying to be Canada’s version of Trump, has said he recognizes where the comparisons come from.
“I’ve heard that analogy many times,” O’Leary told Global News in December 2016.
“We enjoy the benefits of celebrity and to a certain extent that seems to matter in politics these days.”
But leadership isn’t about celebrity, O’Leary said — and policy sets him far apart from Trump.
“I’m half-Lebanese, half-Irish, if there was a wall in Canada I wouldn’t even be here. So I don’t believe in many of the metrics he’s put in place in defining his leadership.”
Though it seems he’d rather be compared to Trump than to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Trump vs. Trudeau is Bambi vs. Godzilla,” said O’Leary.
This isn’t the first time O’Leary has been accused of skipping a debate.
O’Leary, who could face a $10,000 dollar fine for pulling out of Tuesday’s bilingual debate, was previously accused of waiting until after a French-language debate before officially announcing his leadership bid.
During his first debate on Feb 4, O’Leary was the clear target of his opponents. Kellie Leitch — who has been accused of working Trump-style politics into her own campaign — even referred to him as a “con-conservative.”
Global News reached out to O’Leary for comment regarding his fireside chat, but did not hear back by time of publication.
The next leader of the federal Conservatives party will be chosen on May 27.
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