Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate, Mr. Wonderful himself, Kevin O'Leary made a campaign stop in Portage la Prairie Thursday afternoon.
O'Leary spoke to a small group of supporters at Canad Inns, sharing what he called his one campaign promise: annual economic growth of at least three per cent. He then took questions and listened to local concerns of those on hand.
"Portage people are the same as Canadians across the country. They're very concerned about their future and the future of their children," O'Leary says. "That's what I hear from every Canadian no matter where I go, and that's one of the issues that manifests itself with no growth in an economy."
"... A growing economy is the solution to a lot of problems and right now we do not have a growing economy. And that's why we're starting to see all these problems manifest themselves, including here. Teenage unemployment in this province (is in the) double digits, big problem. Same with economic growth here. Same with taxes. Everything here is just like every other province, not growing."
Bill Boskwick, who lives in the Sandhills between Portage and Elm Creek, appreciated the chance to meet O'Leary in-person. The former Dragon's Den star left an impression of a "no non-sense approach" to government management on Boskwick.
"I like how he's non-conventional in a political sense to how he would deal with issues," Boskwick says. "He just makes a lot of good sense. To me it was encouraging. Intuitively, I was supporting him right from the get-go. Having had the chance to listen to him, talk to him, it was very encouraging and very positive."
One Portage la Prairie mother, who asked not to be named, pressed O'Leary during the question and answer session about his stance on issues such as: social support for Canadian families and genetically modified foods. She praised the Liberal government for increasing its investment in the Canada Child Benefit, saying without the federal support, her family would be in trying times.
O'Leary responded by explaining simply the basic government taxation model: "You're paying them, then they pay you," he explains. "...You'd be better off if you're just paying them less."
On the issue of genetically modified foods, O'Leary preached transparent labelling identifying clearly what a food product is, allowing the consumer to make an informed decision to purchase the product they want.
"Hearing his answers to things, a lot is common sense, and I like that," the Portage la Prairie mother says. "...Surprisingly enough, I did like how he answered my questions. I didn't think I would, but I did."