As front-runner quits, remaining Conservative candidates battle it out

Conservative leadership candidate Kevin O'Leary scrums with the media after speaking at the Empire Club luncheon in Toronto on Friday

"We are going to bring our forces together now so that we can win this race and then beat Justin Trudeau in 2019", said Bernier, a Quebec libertarian who was neck-and-neck with O'Leary for much of the race.

"It is a little bit freakish that I am the only one who promotes more freedom and all the other candidates want to promote a policy that was brought in by Pierre Elliot Trudeau?", 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.

They are confirming that O'Leary will be stepping down Wednesday afternoon.

Rumours swirled that other candidates might also consider leaving the race in O'Leary's wake.

Still, O'Leary had plenty of assets: instant recognition, thanks to years of television exposure; a public image as a savvy financial manager; and a brash, no-nonsense, outsider approach that echoed the unlikely ascent of U.S. President Donald Trump.

"I worked like hell on this campaign", O'Leary said, though he has come under fire from other Conservative candidates for not taking the campaign seriously as he appeared numerous times on QVC, the shopping channel, to hawk his wares, notes CBC. "He's been focused a lot on his winnability", said O'Leary senior advisor Mike Coates, global vice-chairman of PR firm Hill and Knowlton Strategies.

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O'Leary, who was often criticized during his campaign for not speaking French, went on to say Bernier would have his "full support" and that he would be directing his supporters to back him as well.

Early on, Bernier faced off against rival Andrew Scheer, whose status in the race has bumped up a few notches after O'Leary's departure. This list includes a whole new generation of young Canadians, many of whom are new to the Conservative Party, and I'm hoping will be lifetime Members.

"I'm going to do everything I can to ensure he gets elected, and I'm going to ask my supporters to do the same".

A major point of divergence between the two candidates is supply management, a Canadian mechanism for supporting dairy farmers popular in Quebec that has been making headlines as Trump promises to do battle with Canada over trade. "O'Leary", Blaney said.

"You'll be using your vote to send a strong, clear message about what matters to you", said Pierre Lemieux, who is running explicitly to give social conservatives a voice in the race.

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