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Political strategist Nick Kouvalis facing break-enter charge over alleged after-hours drinks

Nick Kouvalis is pictured in Toronto on Sept. 28, 2010.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

Political strategist Nick Kouvalis and a defeated candidate for the provincial Conservative nomination of Hamilton Mountain are facing charges of breaking and entering after they allegedly broke into a Kelseys restaurant after hours and helped themselves to drinks.

The incident happened on Sept. 26, one day after Sarah Warry-Poljanski, a political activist in Hamilton lost the Tory nomination.

"The restaurant was closed and the two suspects had cocktails," said Halton Regional Police Service Constable Colin MacLeod, who said the pair was visibly intoxicated when police arrived, alerted by the Burlington restaurant's alarm. The two were arrested and held at a nearby police station until they sobered up, he said.

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A restaurant employee confirmed that nothing was taken during the incident.

Mr. Kouvalis is a noted political strategist who has worked for candidates at all levels of government. He made his reputation as the man who shaped Rob Ford's popular appeal and helped the former mayor reach the city's top job in 2010. Four years later, he worked for John Tory as he campaigned against Rob and then Doug Ford for mayor.

Last February, Mr. Kouvalis stepped down as federal Conservative Kellie Leitch's campaign manager after using an offensive term during a Twitter argument with a professor at the University of Waterloo. In a statement at the time he said "that the pressures that come with a stressful campaign leadership role are not conducive to my personal well-being."

Mr. Kouvalis has been public with his struggles with alcohol. In 2016, he pleaded guilty to a charge of drunk driving.

Ms. Warry-Poljanski announced in May that she was seeking the nomination for the riding that is currently held by the NDP's Monique Taylor, but was defeated in favour of Esther Pauls, a Hamilton entrepreneur who co-owns a running store. She has also run for school trustee, organized protests against rising hydro bills and is a board member of the Society for Quality Education, an education advocacy group.

Ms. Warry-Poljanski and Mr. Kouvalis did not respond to request for comment.

Two court dates have been held in the case, according to documents filed in a Milton courthouse. Ms. Warry-Poljanski's lawyer said he was hopeful the case can be resolved through discussions with the Crown, which are scheduled for February.

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"It is important to remember that Sarah is presumed innocent and that there was no criminal intent," Hamilton lawyer Peter Boushy said.

No plea has been entered in the case, said Dirk Derstine, a criminal lawyer who is representing the political strategist. Mr. Derstine said Mr. Kouvalis has been involved in Ms. Warry-Poljanski's nomination bid. "Mr. Kouvalis denies having had any criminal intent on that night and wants to make it absolutely clear that nothing he did was with any criminal intention," Mr. Derstine said.

In the past, Mr. Tory has said he would not rule out hiring Mr. Kouvalis to work on his 2018 mayoral bid. The two are said to be friends and Mr. Tory has expressed personal support for Mr. Kouvalis's struggle with alcohol and his attempts to get help. A spokesperson for the mayor said he is not aware of these allegations and had no comment.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named Scott Duvall as MPP for Hamilton Mountain. The MPP for Hamilton Mountain is Monique Taylor. This story has been corrected.
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