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O’Leary meeting with Clement to discuss leadership bid, fiscal policy

Kevin O'Leary says he extended the invitation to Tony Clement when they were at the Conservative convention in May, but they haven’t yet had a conversation about Mr. O’Leary joining the team.

Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

Kevin O'Leary is meeting with would-be Conservative Party leadership candidate Tony Clement this week to talk about the possibility of joining his team as its financial czar.

The Toronto businessman-turned-reality TV star, who is still mulling a leadership bid of his own, said he invited Mr. Clement to his Muskoka cottage north of Toronto on Friday where, in addition to having lunch, the two amateur guitar players might find time to "jam."

He said he expects to discuss Mr. Clement's leadership campaign, which the Conservative MP for Parry Sound-Muskoka is set to launch at a legion in Mississauga, Ont., on Tuesday night, as well as offer advice on fiscal policy. But Mr. O'Leary maintained he's keeping his own political options open for several more months.

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A senior organizer with Mr. Clement's campaign told the Globe not to read into the meeting "beyond an opportunity to consult with a successful Canadian entrepreneur on how government can unleash our economic potential." When reached by e-mail on Monday, Mr. Clement wouldn't comment on his meeting with Mr. O'Leary or whether he is trying to recruit him.

"He's coming up here on Friday, we're going to get together, play some guitar together up at my cottage," Mr. O'Leary told the Globe and Mail on Monday on the phone from Muskoka.

"I can't imagine a better way to talk about politics than looking across the lake … This is the Canadian way to do politics. You always do it on the dock."

Mr. O'Leary said he extended the invitation to Mr. Clement when they were both at the Conservative convention in Vancouver in May, but they haven't yet had a conversation about Mr. O'Leary joining the team. "What I've heard in the rumblings through the party is we'll be talking about that, and I'm happy to discuss it," Mr. O'Leary said.

Mr. O'Leary, who also recently hosted Ontario's former Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris at the cottage, said he's still deciding whether to run for the Conservative leadership himself. The new leader will be chosen by party members in May 2017.

"All of this is going to get very, very distilled and condensed October through January, and we'll see what the landscape looks like," Mr. O'Leary said.

However, he won't be running for Liberal leader, as he previously suggested he might. "I've obviously claimed my stake now," he said.

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The reality star, who claims he reaches 10 million people a week, said he's open to meeting with all potential Conservative leadership candidates, currently including Ontario MPs Kellie Leitch and Michael Chong, and Quebec MP Maxime Bernier. "One of my options is to back one of these leaders and be part of their platform and mandate," he said. "I'll help them get elected."

Mr. O'Leary said he has known Mr. Clement, a former minister in Mr. Harris's government, for decades, and added that his wife Linda attended the University of Toronto with Mr. Clement.

"I think he's a very viable candidate, there's no question about it, and he's got a good legacy. I talk to people in Quebec, they like him. All of these things matter," Mr. O'Leary said.

Mr. O'Leary said his main concern right now is to draw attention to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's big-spending economic policies, which he believes will lead to wage freezes, lack of jobs and decreasing home values.

"I don't care how many gay parades you walk in, or how much social media you do, it's not going to change the numbers," he said. "And in the end, if you can't get a job, and you can't get an increase in your salary, and your house is worth less, I think it's going to hurt very badly."

Whether he runs for leader or not, Mr. O'Leary said his goal has always been to craft fiscal and economic policy, or even become finance minister.

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"I don't have that big an ego," he said. "What I care about is seeing this great country, that I pay so much in taxes to, actually become globally competitive. Nowhere is it written we have to be idiots about how we spend our tax dollars. I don't see that in our Constitution."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Laura Stone is a reporter in The Globe's Ottawa bureau. She joined The Globe in February 2016. Before that, she was an online and TV reporter for Global News in Ottawa. Laura has done stints at the Toronto Star, Postmedia News and the Vancouver Province. More

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