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Michael TaubeFinancial commentator Kevin O’Leary isn’t my choice to be the next federal Conservative leader. He’s one of the recognized front-runners but I don’t think he’s a suitable candidate – I have many concerns about his policies, statements, positions and political brand.

Regardless, O’Leary and his team deserve full credit for correctly saying that voter fraud was occurring in the Conservative leadership race.

When the initial charge of “widespread vote-rigging” made its way into the public discourse, there was a predictable amount of snickering and snorts of laughter. It was also interpreted as something akin to either allegations of Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election or President Donald Trump’s unproven allegation that he had had his “wires tapped” in the Trump Tower by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

But in this case, the allegation turned out to be true.

The Tories removed 1,351 people from the party membership rolls last week. The memberships were reportedly purchased anonymously through two IP addresses. This was obviously an illegal procedure and the matter was properly dealt with.

That’s the good news.

Here’s the bad news:

The original email sent out by the O’Leary campaign about voter fraud also contained this allegation: an unnamed Tory leadership rival was behind this scheme using prepaid credit cards.

While the party brass couldn’t prove it – anonymous purchases through the Tory website apparently can’t be traced – the Canadian Press was reportedly told by two unnamed sources that the focus was on Maxime Bernier’s campaign.

The Tory MP and former cabinet minister, who is also a top leadership candidate, was clearly furious. In a fundraising email, he was quoted as saying that O’Leary “knows my campaign has raised more money, signed up more members, has more supporters and more volunteers. He’s a bad candidate. Instead of trying to win people over by putting out a platform, he’s throwing mud to try to save his campaign.”

Is this true?

Mudslinging has been part of the political process since long before the Tories started searching for a replacement for former prime minister Stephen Harper. It happens in leadership races, nomination ridings and even during the candidate selection process. No political party is (or has been) immune from it.

In O’Leary’s case, he did sling some political mud when he claimed the votes were being rigged by a leadership rival. He didn’t mention the person by name, but he was obviously trying to stir the pot and get party members talking.

That’s what happens when you dangle a political carrot. Someone will eventually take a significant bite out of it.

Yes, O’Leary has been involved in, and been the recipient of, some mudslinging since he decided to run for the Tory leadership.

Then again, that’s what happens when you spend a significant amount of time in the United States instead of campaigning in Canada. Or muse about running for the Liberals and finally settle on the Tories. Or tell radio host Tasha Kheiriddin in January, “I am not a capitalist,” after spending most of your adult life as an identified champion of capitalism. Or criticize the Canadian military on several occasions. Or speak apprehensively about joining the fight against the Islamic state.

I could go on but you get the point.

I’m certainly pleased that O’Leary vigorously spoke out against voter fraud. It means he wants to ensure it’s a clean race, and that the next party leader will be chosen fairly and democratically.

We can all agree that’s a good thing.

But it doesn’t excuse O’Leary’s decision to engage in mudslinging against any of the other candidates. And it certainly doesn’t change my position about his leadership bid – and whether he truly is a conservative.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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Kevin O’Leary

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