Toronto’s 50 Most Influential: #17, Nick Kouvalis
Our annual ranking of the people whose smarts, connections and clout are changing the city as we know it
Campaign Research Inc.
17 Kouvalis is the ultimate guy behind the guy—a ruthless backroom operative and professional data cruncher who’s best known for steering both Rob Ford and John Tory into the mayor’s chair. He’s also a polarizing figure: to some, he’s a cunning tactician with a near-clairvoyant knack for taking the public temperature and anticipating his opponents’ manoeuvres. To others, he’s a master manipulator who’ll stop at nothing to score a point. Though he’s no longer on the mayor’s payroll, Kouvalis continues to exert stealthy influence over affairs at city hall. His market research firm, Campaign Research Inc., has a fat black book of powerful clients, including Uber Toronto, the Toronto Police Association and would-be waterfront developer First Gulf. Last spring, First Gulf retained Campaign Research to conduct a public opinion poll on the fate of the crumbling Gardiner Expressway. The results, which found their way into hands at city hall, supported the partial dismantlement of the thoroughfare—the so-called hybrid approach adopted by council last June.
Kouvalis is rumoured to be signed on to the federal leadership bid of ex–labour minister Kellie Leitch, a former SickKids doctor jockeying to replace Stephen Harper.