Kevin O’Leary joins Conservative party, takes centre stage at convention

Click to play video: 'Kevin O’Leary calls federal budget a ‘disaster’' Kevin O’Leary calls federal budget a ‘disaster’
WATCH ABOVE: Conservative Party leader contender Kevin O'Leary is calling the upcoming federal budget a "disaster." – May 27, 2016

Kevin O’Leary is convinced he has picked the winning team.

The bombastic businessman is front and centre at this weekend’s Conservative Party convention, now in its second day in Vancouver. It’s the latest in a string of appearances for him in Tory circles, leading to rampant speculation that he wants to be the next leader of the party.

In an interview with The West Block‘s Tom Clark, O’Leary confirmed he has now officially joined the Conservative ranks and paid his membership dues.

WATCH: Conservative Party leader contender Kevin O’Leary responds to former colleague Brett Wilson’s question of what he would do in 2019 to bolster the economy and create jobs.
Click to play video: 'Kevin O’Leary says he’s a proud Canadian who wants the country to do well' Kevin O’Leary says he’s a proud Canadian who wants the country to do well
Kevin O’Leary says he’s a proud Canadian who wants the country to do well – May 27, 2016

“I felt to come to this platform without membership, is disingenuous really,” he said.

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Asked why he went to the blue team, the former Dragon’s Den star was quick to cite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent budget.

“His economic policy is going to be a disaster for this country and there’s going to be an equivalent landslide in the other direction,” O’Leary quipped.  “That’s why I’ve decided to join this party, because they’re going to be in power in 2019.”

It’s that kind of unvarnished response that has drawn comparisons between O’Leary and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. While O’Leary styles himself as far more progressive, neither man pulls verbal punches.

At a recent appearance in Toronto, for instance, O’Leary reportedly told an invite-only gathering that he wouldn’t model his policies on anything the Conservatives have presented in the past.

“They’ve just lost — they’re losers,” he said. “When you lose, you have to stand back and say what didn’t work.”

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WATCH: Will Kevin O’Leary become Canada’s Donald Trump?

Click to play video: 'Will Kevin O’Leary become Canada’s Donald Trump?' Will Kevin O’Leary become Canada’s Donald Trump?
Will Kevin O’Leary become Canada’s Donald Trump? – Jan 14, 2016

In addition to his appearance this weekend in Vancouver, O’Leary’s face graces the cover of this week’s issue of Maclean’s Magazine. He told Clark that more than anything, he feels the Conservatives need to set themselves apart from the Liberals based on their fiscal management style.

“More transparency in how taxpayers’ money is spent, more metrics on productivity…more adult supervision on how money is actually deployed,” he explained.

“Assisted suicide? Yes. Legalizing marijuana? Yes. Gay rights? Yes. All of these are going to be identical to the Liberal Party.”

Watch the full interview with Kevin O’Leary this Sunday on the West Block. 

Farewell to Stephen Harper

O’Leary isn’t the only person taking centre-stage at the convention. Declared leadership hopefuls Michael Chong, Maxime Bernier and Kellie Leitch are all on hand, and potential candidates will likely also use the opportunity to gauge support.

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On Thursday evening, former prime minister Stephen Harper addressed the delegates, saying that Conservatives cannot dwell on the past if they hope to move forward.

Harper will be stepping down as an MP over the summer, it was reported this week, and the speech and accompanying tribute served as a kind of farewell.

WATCH: Former PM Stephen Harper poised to leave politics

Click to play video: 'Former PM Stephen Harper poised to leave politics' Former PM Stephen Harper poised to leave politics
Former PM Stephen Harper poised to leave politics – May 25, 2016

Liberals gather in Winnipeg

Meanwhile, in Winnipeg, there will likely be plenty of back-slapping on Friday and Saturday as the Liberals hold their first major convention since forming a majority government last October.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to be on hand for Saturday only, stopping by on his way back from the G7 meetings in Japan.

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But there may be significant controversy awaiting the prime minister, as the Liberals are expected to take a hard look at the party’s current constitution.

READ MORE: Trudeau promotes wide-open Liberal party, end to party membership

Trudeau and other top party brass have advocated for allowing membership without a fee, but there may also be changes coming to the constitution that would strip local riding associations of much of their influence, concentrating more power at the party’s uppermost levels.

The idea of an emergency resolution was also being floated to ask the government to amend its controversial proposed law on assisted death before putting it to a final vote in the House of Commons. Certain party members have said the law is too restrictive. That resolution was rejected handily on Friday, however.

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