A top adviser to the Ontario and federal Conservative parties is under fire for tweeting misinformation about the aftermath of the U.S. election.
Nick Kouvalis, a veteran conservative operative and principal at Campaign Research Inc. and Campaign Support Ltd., tweeted and subsequently retracted a false claim last week that anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter activists — not supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump — were responsible for the Capitol riots.
“These BLM/Antifa dudes get around like they’re Forest Gump (sic),” Kouvalis said in a since-deleted tweet from Jan. 6 that was accompanied by a photo of the Washington, D.C. rioters.
The next day, he apologized in a followup post: “To be clear, I absolutely condemn yesterday's violence in the U.S. & in no way endorse any sort of violence by any protesters, or support conspiracy theories,” he said. “Trump should concede & STFU.”
One of Kouvalis’s companies, Campaign Support Ltd., billed the PC caucus $121,136 for the 2019-20 fiscal year, public accounts show. It’s unclear whether he’s still doing work for the Tories — the premier’s office did not respond to repeated questions over the course of two days, and Kouvalis did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Stephen Blais, the Liberal MPP for the Ottawa suburb of Orléans, said in a statement Monday that it's “concerning, but not surprising” that Premier Doug Ford would be using public funds to pay for advice from a “man who promotes baseless and harmful right-wing conspiracy theories.”
“The recent attacks in Washington go to show what happens when those in power enable this dangerous rhetoric,” Blais said.
In the days after the U.S. election, Kouvalis also posted tweets incorrectly stating that it was “pretty obvious that Trump has won” and referenced unsubstantiated claims that voting had been tampered with. He also said “it's interesting that all the ‘glitches’ with the voting machines always seem to take votes away from Trump and then same number of votes get added to Biden's totals” — in fact, election day software glitches did not affect the final results.
Veteran conservative operative Nick Kouvalis tweeted and retracted a false claim that "antifa" and Black Lives Matter activists caused the Capitol riots. Ontario Premier Doug Ford didn't answer when asked if Kouvalis still works for Tories. #onpoli
Earlier in the year, on April 24, Kouvalis claimed “masks don’t work” to stop the spread of COVID-19. Though there was confusion around the efficacy of wearing masks in the early days of the pandemic, by early April, the federal government had issued guidance saying masks were effective in protecting others from infection.
Ontario NDP democratic reform critic Peggy Sattler said in a statement that Kouvalis’s comments are “very troubling.”
“If this individual is under contract to, or employed by, the PC party, then Doug Ford should explain why,” Sattler said. “No intentional disinformation about election processes and results is ever acceptable.”
Kouvalis has worked for campaigns at the municipal and federal levels in addition to the provincial Tories.
He was the campaign manager for the late Rob Ford’s successful run for Toronto mayor in 2010. (Premier Ford is Rob’s brother.)
Kouvalis has also advised Kellie Leitch — a former leadership candidate for the federal Conservatives who ran on a pitch to screen immigrants for “anti-Canadian values” — along with former federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, former B.C. premier Christy Clark and current Toronto Mayor John Tory.