Kevin O'Leary to quit Conservative leadership race, support Maxime Bernier

Kevin O'Leary speaks during the Conservative Party of Canada convention in Vancouver Friday

Kevin O'Leary speaks during the Conservative Party of Canada convention in Vancouver Friday

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.

Michael Chong called his policies "extreme", highlighting Bernier's pledge to cut the size of federal programs by a third.

Candidate Kellie Leitch, who has also ripped pages from Trump's populist playbook, said O'Leary's departure opens a door for her.

Lisa Raitt, an MP from a Toronto-area riding, said giving the suggestion the party is not inclusive is a direct way to lose all the seats the party has in that area. "Like I said, we are all Conservatives".

At a Toronto Sun editorial board Wednesday, O'Toole said he has the broad-based party support and comprehensive platform to lead the party to victory against Justin Trudeau's Liberals.

All four held their ground late on Wednesday at the final debate of the year-long contest, with Bernier arguing he was the best positioned to negotiate trade with U.S. President Donald Trump because they both want to end the supply management system of Canada's dairy sector.

When asked about that sparring, Bernier said the two had a "nice competition but now we are together".

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Nearly two-thirds of respondents who voted UKIP in the 2015 general election now say that they intend to support the Tories. But the figures are also bad for Ukip whose supporters appear to be heading to the Tories in significant numbers.

O'Leary said Wednesday he had initially planned to reveal his decision next week, but that it would have been "disingenuous" even to be contemplating a "merger" with the Bernier campaign and not make it known publicly if people were already receiving their ballots and beginning to vote.

"It is important to do the big, the bold reform at the federal level, don't be scared about that", he said. Last month, he called O'Leary "a loser" after the celebrity businessman reportedly accused his campaign of trying to buy its way to the top by signing up "fake " party members without their knowledge.

Scheer suggested the party was at risk of being divided by someone imposing their personal ideology, but Bernier fired back that his views aren't just his but all of Canada's.

He caveated this by saying he had a "high probability" of winning the Conservative leadership race, but that it wasn't "the right thing to do for the party" if he could not realistically beat Trudeau.

Even for those who are now polling far down the pack made the case that all voters' opinions need to be heard. Someone who will command the support of Canadians from every region of the country and who can build a consensus among all members of the Party.

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

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