Guess who is quietly lining up to fight British Columbia's upcoming referendum on electoral reform?
An astroturf group headed by Nick Kouvalis, who previously managed Kellie Leitch’s controversial Conservative leadership campaign, says it’s working to sway the outcome of British Columbia’s upcoming electoral reform vote.
In a recent e-mail blast, the group Keep Voting Simple tells its supporters BC’s upcoming electoral reform referendum is an “obvious attempt to confuse and manipulate voters” as part of a scheme to “transform BC’s electoral system”
The e-mail ends with an appeal for donations to “help us keep voting simple in BC,” something that is accompanied by a PO Box address in Markham, Ontario:
“Keep Voting Simple is committed to contesting this referendum and stopping electoral changes in BC, but we need your help. If you live in British Columbia, or would like to assist us in the upcoming BC campaign, please click below and let us know.”
Kouvalis is a backroom political operative notorious for helping elect Rob Ford Mayor of Toronto and running the Conservative leadership campaign of Kellie Leitch earlier this year – considered one of the most controversial in recent Canadian history for its xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Kouvalis stepped away from Leitch’s leadership campaign in January after a profanity-laced Twitter tirade that saw him denounce a prominent constitutional scholar as a “cuck.”
He’s also previously done public relations work for Christy Clark’s BC Liberals. In 2011, his Campaign Research Ltd. company received a secretive $167,000 payout from the BC Liberal government for communications work promoting the controversial Harmonized Sales Tax.
Kouvalis also has a sketchy track record working with federal Conservatives. In 2012, his polling firm came under fire for circulating misleading messages in the federal riding of Mount Royal, leading a three-member panel of the Market Research and Intelligence Association to conclude:
“The actions of Campaign Research have likely caused the Canadian public to lose confidence in marketing research and have tarnished the image of the marketing research profession.”
Ironically, the 2017 Conservative leadership race made use of a ranked vote – but Keep Voting Simple now implies the same model is designed to “manipulate voters” and would be too complicated for BC voters to grasp.
The group made use of a similar argument when it opposed the federal Liberals’ (since abandoned) promise to change Canada’s electoral system, work the group showcased on Ezra Levant’s far-right Rebel Media website.
In BC’s upcoming referendum, voters will be given the opportunity to get rid of the outdated, 19th century First-Past-the-Post voting system (FPTP) under which many votes are effectively wasted and move towards a proportional system in which parties are awarded a number of seats in the legislature proportionate to the number of votes they receive.
If BC opts to eliminate First-Past-the-Post, it will become the first province in Canada to do so – but some 80% of OECD countries already make use of proportional voting systems.