Kevin O’Leary

Conservative hopeful Kevin O’Leary coming to Kelowna

But he will only be available to card-carrying Conservatives.

Federal Conservative Party leadership hopeful Kevin O’Leary is coming to Kelowna to try and sway those eligible to vote in next month’s leadership vote.

O’Leary, a high-profile businessman with no political experience, will appear Saturday morning at the Coast Capri Hotel to speak with party members only. The meeting is not open to the public and only card-carrying members of the Conservative Party will be allowed in, say organizers.

Organizers have also said they plan to only invite selected members of the local media.

O’Leary is the third Conservative leadership candidate to visit Kelowna, following Andrew Saxton last week and Lisa Raitt a few weeks ago. They also met with party members.

Fourteen men and women are vying to replace former leader Stephen Harper, who resigned following the Conservatives defeat in last October’s federal election.

Recently O’Leary complained publicly all Conservative Party members are not getting the opportunity to hear from each leadership candidate because an updated list of eligible party members had not been circulated by the the party despite the cut off for voting eligibility occurring three weeks ago.

“Given we are approaching the end of a long leadership process, I can’t think of a more important priority for the party leadership than delivering its new expanded membership list to the 14 leadership candidates,” said O’Leary last week.

Party members eligible to vote will get their ballots next week. The election is May 27.

“This is taking too long,” O’Leary said. “We are told it might be another two weeks or more before we have a full membership list, which is just far too late. All candidates need this information today, and it is in no one’s interest that this information is being held back.”

Ken Lang, president of the Kelowna-Lake Country Conservative Party riding association, said he has seen a huge increase in memberships here—as has the party across the country—as a result of the leadership campaign.

While declining to release either the new number or how many members the riding association had prior to the leadership campaign, he described the increase as an “explosion.”

“It has been absolutely crazy,” said Lang.

Despite that, the lengthy Conservative leadership campaign has been a low-key affair, failing to catch fire with the general public.

O’Leary entered the race late and has skipped several of the all-candidates debates that have been held across the country.

Locally, Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola MP Dan Albas, whose riding includes West Kelowna and part of downtown Kelowna, has thrown his support behind another candidate, Quebec MP and former Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier. Albas is Bernier’s campaign co-chairman in B.C.