Kevin O’Leary, federal Conservative Party leadership candidate, answers questions during a campaign stop in Nanaimo on Friday afternoon. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

O’Leary discusses immigration, economy during Conservative leadership campaign stop in Nanaimo

Canadian television personality meets with Conservative supporters in Nanaimo

The economy, immigration and taxation were top of mind for Conservative Party leadership candidate Kevin O’Leary during a campaign event in Nanaimo on Friday afternoon.

O’Leary told the crowd of approximately 60 people at the Coast Bastion Hotel that he’s fine with immigration as long as it is done fairly, adding Canada spends too much on illegal immigrants from the United States.

“It’s unfair to the people trying to get into this country legally that others can walk into the border and take their space,” he said. “What does it cost us as taxpayers? $500,000 per person before we actually send them back. Half a million per person. Free health care, free welfare, free everything because we are Canadians and we are nice people.”

O’Leary, former star of CBC TV show Dragons’ Den, said he wants to see individual and corporate tax rates slashed dramatically in an effort to boost the economy.

“We got to reduce our taxes and keep the capital at work,” he said.

The Conservatives are set to hold their leadership election next month and O’Leary is competing against 14 candidates, including Chris Alexander, Maxime Bernier, Kellie Leitch, Steven Blaney, Andrew Saxton, Lisa Raitt, Andrew Scheer, Erin O’Toole and Michael Chong.

O’Leary, who fielded numerous questions from the audience, said Canada’s economy needs to be better than it is today and tax revenue is wasted too often.

“We should be the envy of the Earth,” he said. “We just have to manage this place and get some men and women who are focused on hitting targets on our behalf. If you want to serve in government, you have to treat money of taxpayers as your own.”

Speaking to the News Bulletin afterward, O’Leary said his main focus is economic growth for Canada.

“If you don’t care about Canada’s economy growing then you shouldn’t vote for Kevin O’Leary because I am not making 25 promises,” he said. “I am making one: three per cent economic growth. That’s all I care about.”

O’Leary said carbon tax needs to be eliminated nationwide as it deters people from starting a business in Canada and it isn’t effective in stopping wealthy companies from hurting the environment.

“If you let a rich company buy carbon credits it just keeps spewing filth into the environment,” he said. “But it’s rich so it can just keep buying credits. How stupid.”

The former television star said communities such as Nanaimo need to diversify their economies in order to have long-term economic success in the future. He said high tax rates hinder many investors from starting businesses on Vancouver Island.

“We need to start selling more stuff to India and China and that is why it is very important to start focusing on everything you can do to bring different forms of capital and revenue and investment from all around,” he said. “People would love to invest in Canada, particularly this part. This is beautiful here. I would think you could boost your tourism significantly if you made it an interesting place and less expensive to get to.”

O’Leary also blamed the lack of economic growth on the prime minister , who he feels isn’t qualified to be involved in serious economic decisions such as the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“The best thing to solve the problems right here is to get rid of Justin Trudeau, believe it or not, because it is his overriding policy that crushes innovation, jobs, capital traction, competitiveness. He’s a disaster,” he said.

nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

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