Opinion Editorial

Editorial

Filling the O’Leary void

Postmedia Network

Conservative leadership candidate, Kevin O'Leary, speaks to members and supporters at a meet and greet in Burlington, Ont., on Sunday, March 5, 2017. Celebrity investor and reality-TV star O'Leary has quit the federal Conservative leadership race and throwing his support behind Quebec rival Maxime Bernier. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov)

Conservative leadership candidate, Kevin O'Leary, speaks to members and supporters at a meet and greet in Burlington, Ont., on Sunday, March 5, 2017. Celebrity investor and reality-TV star O'Leary has quit the federal Conservative leadership race and throwing his support behind Quebec rival Maxime Bernier. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov)

When Conservative Party of Canada members fill in their ballots for leader, they need to keep in mind they’re voting to pick the person who can beat Justin Trudeau in the next election.

The whole reason Kevin O’Leary backed out of the race and threw his support behind Maxime Bernier, is that he felt he couldn’t win in a general election.

The main reason? His nearly non-existent French.

Whatever English Canada thinks about the unwritten rule that every national party leader needs to be functionally bilingual, it’s true. 

It’s just basic math. There are 78 seats in Quebec. That’s second only to Ontario’s whopping 121. 

A federal party needs seats in francophone Quebec if it’s going to win and effectively govern the nation.

Apparently, O’Leary, a Montreal-born reality TV star, wasn’t interested in knuckling down and working on his French.

In fairness to him, picking up a new language in your 60s is no easy feat.

O’Leary was one of the few leadership candidates who had hardly any French. 

However, there were other skills he brought to the table that other candidates do not have.

This will remain a major liability for them.

The key one is personality. O’Leary brings conviction, energy and passion to everything he does. 

He also raised plenty of money and sold thousands of memberships.

As Sun columnist Anthony Furey wrote last week, the Tories owe O’Leary a big thank you for making their leadership race a much-watch event.

While we don’t want to see Canadian politics become a race to the bottom in terms of which party has the bigger celebrity as leader, there’s no denying O’Leary’s star power was a boon to the Conservative race.

There’s also no denying a leader who lacks at least some of his charisma and excitement will have a tough time going up against Prime Minister Trudeau in 2019.

Bernier is closest to possessing that type of flair. 

But even he will need to considerably step up his game when it comes to wooing the electorate.

Many of the candidates have smart ideas. They don’t all have the ability to sell those ideas to Canadians.

Whoever wins, it will be tough to fill the void that O’Leary’s absence has created.