In a Facebook video, O’Leary thanked the “40,000 of you…that encouraged” him to run.
“That’s why I’m doing it,” the former Dragons’ Den star said. “What an opportunity we have in the country. Limitless bounty. Such opportunity to turn it around, I’m so excited, it’s time.
“I’m jumping in the race right now,” O’Leary said.
O’Leary’s announcement comes after Tuesday’s French debate – the last of the leadership race.
In December, the businessman and TV star launched OlearyforCanada.ca, a website “to mobilize public support.”
Kevin O’Leary: ‘If I don’t deliver a majority mandate in 2019, fire me’
The website also listed his exploratory committee. The team of advisers includes political heavyweights like former Ontario premier Mike Harris and former senator Marjory LeBreton.
In a press release, O’Leary attacked the Liberal government saying “Canada cannot afford another four years of Justin Trudeau.”
“Trudeau broke his promise and has put forward a dangerous proposal built on perpetual debt,” O’Leary said. “Now we are being asked to forfeit our children’s futures under the burden of unbalanced budgets for the next 38 years. This is a nightmare, and I will not let become a reality.”
O’Leary joins a crowded field as 13 others are vying for the opportunity to fill Stephen Harper’s shoes. The winner will be chosen May 27.
O’Leary, who does not speak French but is now taking lessons, says he’s “getting frustrated” with how many candidates are still in the running.
Calling himself a “successful Canadian businessman with a great deal of international experience,” O’Leary said he’s the only one who can take down Trudeau.
“I am the only candidate who can beat Justin Trudeau,” he said in the statement.
O’Leary’s announcement comes just two days before another businessman, Donald Trump, takes office south of the border, in which O’Leary warned against in his official leadership bid announcement.
Now, with the election of Donald Trump to our south, Canada’s largest trading partner is headed by a businessman with an aggressive strategy that could hurt the Canadian economy,” he said. “Trudeau doesn’t stand a chance, and we deserve better.”
-With files from Kevin Nielsen.