If you’re planning on becoming mayor of Toronto at some point, you might want to call up Nick Kouvalis. As an architect of Rob Ford’s mayoral campaign in 2010, he took a city councillor best known as a right-wing loner with occasional anger problems and turned him into a viable candidate. Kouvalis was a core player in the Ford administration until early 2011, when, after a falling out, he left his post as the new mayor’s chief of staff and returned to his private political consultancy, Campaign Research. The break with the Fords became more apparent last year, when Kouvalis switched allegiances, taking on the role of John Tory’s chief political strategist—a job where his main duty was to engineer Doug Ford’s eventual defeat in the 2014 mayoral election. Kouvalis has been called a “Ford whisperer,” a “campaign wizard” and a “dirty trickster.” Whatever the case, he has a winning record and a knack for explaining the minutiae of elections.
How did you go from being a naval reservist to being a political strategist?
I grew up in Windsor and I got a job in a factory. I wanted to be a toolmaker. So when I got married, I was working at Chrysler and also doing the naval reserve stuff. I didn’t like my job, and I got invited to volunteer on a political campaign. I worked for Belinda Stronach when she ran for leader of the federal Conservative party, and that was interesting. I liked it. Then I ran a campaign in Essex county for the Conservatives, and we won, and we hadn’t won in 46 years. So then I figured, not only do I like this, I’m obviously pretty good at it. So I started thinking about making it into a business.