Kevin O'Leary's no-show excuse doesn't fly with Winnipeggers

It certainly wasn't what Allie Szarkiewicz was hoping for after Kevin O'Leary missed his first campaign event in Winnipeg on Monday and spoke to the crowd of about 100 people over Skype instead.


The businessman and reality televisions star's team told the crowd that O'Leary couldn't make it because inclement weather had cancelled his flight from Toronto.


However, no flights between the cities were cancelled that night and O'Leary missed his initial flight for business meetings.


"I felt cheated and I think a lot of people in the audience also felt cheated that he didn't make a better effort to show up," Szarkiewicz said.


With less than two months to go before voting for the Conservative Party leadership, O'Leary is one of the front-runners, according to an analysis of endorsement, fundraising and polling data.


Szarkiewicz, a Conservative member, showed up to the meet-and-greet event at Metropolitan Entertainment Centre about 30 minutes early because she was interested in what O'Leary would have to say as the possible leader of the party.


"I was curious. I wanted to hear what were his platforms, what were his ideas. I am a fan of him in terms of Dragons' Den or Shark Tank, but as far as leader of the party, it was more for curiosity," she said.


About 15 minutes before the event was supposed to start, an organizer announced that O'Leary wasn't going to be there in person but would speak through video, Szarkiewicz said.


"A lot of people were kind of disappointed but it was still a decent crowd," she said.


O'Leary even went on Twitter where he posted a video saying he was at the lounge at Air Canada in Pearson Toronto because "everything is delayed, everything is cancelled."


"This is the first time the weather has screwed me up like this but what can you do? We are getting a monster storm here," he said in the video.


Szarkiewicz said when O'Leary started speaking she wasn't sure if it was pre-recorded because he didn't seem to be responding to applause on the video. But then the Conservative Party leadership front-runner started taking questions from the crowd, some submitted beforehand and some live.


Despite being on video, O'Leary went over well with the crowd, Szarkiewicz said.


"He had a lot of interesting things to say. He is learning how to be a politician and he was doing a good job," she said.


Some people on Twitter started pointing out that no flights had been cancelled.


"Why would you lie about missing your flight? Do you think we can't look up cancelled flights?" tweeted a user named Paul Beaudry.


In a statement emailed to CBC, O'Leary's press secretary Ari Laskin said "due to meetings at the office in Toronto, Mr. O'Leary was not able to make [his first] flight."


O'Leary was transferred to another flight which would not arrive until it was too late, the email said. Instead he took a later flight to Saskatchewan.


"We were committed to speaking with members in Winnipeg and we made a call to take questions via Skype from the Pearson Airport lounge. We will make every effort to get back to Winnipeg to speak with members in person," Laskin wrote.


Szarkiewicz said she is disappointed, not only that he missed the event, but that he wasn't truthful about why.


"To be honest, I went there out of curiosity and I kind of got what I expected and I'm not surprised he didn't show up," she said.