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Canadian businessman Kevin O'Leary speaks during the Conservative Party of Canada convention in Vancouver, Friday, May 27, 2016. O'Leary says there are all sorts of rumours swirling about when he will join the Conservative leadership race.But he's refusing to comment on the latest one: that he'll finally launch his campaign Wednesday afternoon in Toronto.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan HaywardThe Canadian Press

Reality TV star and businessman Kevin O'Leary is expected to announce his bid for Conservative leadership on Wednesday, a source familiar with the campaign said.

"That is the plan so far," the source told The Globe and Mail.

"We need to get selling memberships, raising money and having access to lists. And the longer we wait, the more we restrict our ability to get all that stuff."

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The announcement, which is expected on Facebook, would come the day after the 13 leadership contenders met in Quebec City for a French-language debate.

Mr. O'Leary, a Montreal-born anglophone who lives half the year in the United States, has only recently spoken a French sentence publicly and said he is willing to learn the language. He has been highly criticized for lacking proficiency in French.

Members of Mr. O'Leary's exploratory committee, which includes Ontario's former Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris, retired Conservative senator Marjory LeBreton and Conservative strategist Mike Coates, discussed the launch on Tuesday evening. Candidates have until Feb. 24 to enter the race.

The committee launched a website in December, asking Canadians to weigh in on whether Mr. O'Leary should join the race for the Conservative leadership. In a report last week, the committee said there is "clear path to victory" if Mr. O'Leary joins the crowded field, which includes seven former cabinet ministers, to replace Stephen Harper on May 27.

"All signs are pointing to he's going to announce [Wednesday]," the source said. Reached by phone on Tuesday, Mr. O'Leary refused to say whether he's entering the race.

"No comment. I will be commenting on the debate tomorrow, though," he said.

"I'm very frustrated with this debate process because they're not getting anything done in terms of getting the dialogue going. I've been saying that for a while. We still have 13 candidates, we're still doing 20-second soundbites. It's not working."

Mr. O'Leary said he has resisted joining the race because the debates are too crowded, and said he's reaching a million people a week on social media. After Tuesday, there will have been three debates, and at least one more is scheduled on Feb. 28 in Edmonton.

"I've been transparent. I've said, what's the point? Because the minute I jump in, I have to debate with 13 other people. There's no debate. I'm wondering when this thing gets a little more concentrated. Hasn't happen yet. Sure, I'm frustrated," Mr. O'Leary said.

"I personally, as a member of the party, am not happy with what we're doing with the debates."

His candidacy is sure to ruffle feathers among the 13 other hopefuls, who have already lashed out at him.

Ontario MP Lisa Raitt created a website,, designed to debunk Mr. O'Leary's policies, and said both he and candidate Kellie Leitch are bringing divisive politics to Canada. Ms. Leitch has proposed one of the most controversial ideas of the campaign – screening immigrants for "Canadian values."

Leadership candidates Erin O'Toole, Michael Chong and Andrew Scheer have targeted Mr. O'Leary. Mr. O'Toole and Mr. Chong criticized Mr. O'Leary for his views on the military after he said in a radio interview there is "nothing proud about being a warrior," a comment he later reversed. Mr. Scheer urged Mr. O'Leary to enter the race in time to participate in Tuesday's French-language debate.