AJAX — Conservative leadership candidate Kevin O'Leary said he wants to triple the size of Canada's nuclear industry during a speech to members of the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce.
O'Leary was the keynote speaker at the organization's annual general meeting on April 6, held at the Ajax Convention Centre.
The statement came in response to a question from Ron Oberth, president and CEO of the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries. The organization represents 200 suppliers and contractors to the nuclear industry including suppliers to Ontario Power Generation.
Oberth asked O'Leary what his opinion was of Canada's nuclear industry.
"A hundred per cent support it, I will triple its size, no question," said O'Leary. "This is the cheapest, safest form of energy."
Following the meeting, Oberth called O'Leary's comment "a surprisingly positive one."
"For a candidate to be as bold as to say 'I want to triple the size of the industry,' that's a wonderful response," he said.
While the federal government transferred CANDU Energy to the private sector to SNC-Lavalin in 2011, Oberth said the feds still have a large role to play.
"Nuclear sales around the world, especially of large billion-dollar reactor sales, require government and political support," said Oberth. "So whereas SNC-Lavalin now has the mandate to do that, a leader who builds political relationships with foreign leaders, particularly with countries that are expanding their nuclear program, has an important role to play."
He added that nuclear sales also require export credit financing.
"Our Canadian government is good, but I don't think I've heard anyone in government say triple, so he was more aggressive in what he would do," said Oberth. "He didn't specifically say how he would do it, but anybody who says I want to triple the size of the industry is what we want to hear."
In his speech, O'Leary focused his message on criticizing Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, and reiterated that he believes he can grow the economy at a rate of three per cent per year.
Following the talk, O'Leary discussed the importance of winning business leaders.
"It's paramount, my message is all economic. If I don't win this constituency, I have no chance of winning. This is the key, this is my core."
When speaking to businesses, O'Leary said there are two key issues that are consistently raised: taxes and energy costs.
"Even if you're a restaurant owner, you're looking at your hydro bill saying, 'I can't afford this'," said O'Leary.
The Conservatives will hold their leadership vote on May 27.