Socratic Form Microscopy

Nick Kouvalis is Full of Shit

by Zach Jacobi in Politics

Note: A previous version of this post referred to Kellie Leitch as “Ms. Leitch” instead of “Dr. Leitch”. I don’t know how I forgot she was a doctor, but I’m deeply sorry that I did. 

Nick Kouvalis (campaign manager for Canada’s cheap knock off demagogue, Kellie Leitch) bragged in Macleans1 about how he’s deliberately spreading “fake news” on Twitter to help him identify liberals who are joining the Conservative party to vote against Kellie Leitch.

“We call it Operation Flytrap,” Kouvalis says. “We did it knowing that people who aren’t real Conservatives can’t help themselves, so they post something negative about me, or Kellie. Some of them use real names. We find out who they are, and check them against the membership list. I’m going to challenge as many as I can.”

But there are further layers of dishonesty going on here. Note that Mr. Kouvalis is looking merely for comments directed against himself or Dr. Leitch. From these, he wants to gather a list of people who (he suspects but probably can’t prove) joined the Conservative Party just to vote against Dr. Leitch.

He faces one major roadblock in this scheme: this isn’t against the rules.

If you look at the constitution of the CPC, you’ll see that to join it you must be 14, you must pay a membership fee, and you must agree with the 22 guiding principles of the CPC.

Lest you assume the principles are a potential stumbling block, I’ve included some representative examples here:

  • A belief in a balance between fiscal accountability, progressive social policy and individual rights and responsibilities.
  • A belief in the equality of all Canadians.
  • A belief in our constitutional monarchy, the institutions of Parliament and the democratic process
  • A belief that English and French have equality of status, and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada.
  • A belief that it is the responsibility of individuals to provide for themselves, their families and their dependents, while recognizing that government must respond to those who require assistance and compassion.

These aren’t exactly controversial pronouncements. You’d find broad support for almost all of the principles espoused in the CPC constitution, even among the 60% of voters who don’t regularly vote for the Tories.

Mr. Kouvalis is pulling a bait and switch. He’s amassed a list of people who want to vote against Kellie Leitch. But that isn’t a disqualifying factor in this leadership race. Any dragnet that gathers up everyone who can’t stand Kellie Leitch won’t just catch liberals joining to try and stop her. It will also catch diehard supporters of Deepak Obhrai, or Michael Chong, two leadership candidates who have been relentless in their criticism of Dr. Leitch.

I suspect that Mr. Kouvalis bragged to Macleans with another agenda: stopping people from joining the CPC just to vote against Kellie Leitch. If you’re considering joining the Conservative Party to vote for a candidate better than Kellie Leitch, please don’t let “Operation Flytrap” discourage you. That the Leitch campaign is going to such lengths does prove that they’re worried that they’ll lose if any significant amount of citizens join the CPC and put Dr. Leitch at the bottom of their ballots.

Even if my read is wrong, you have little to lose by joining the Conservative Party and trying to cast a vote against Dr. Leitch. If you haven’t posted anything publically under your legal name, “Operation Flytrap” can’t target you.

If you’re like me and have been public in your criticism of Dr. Leitch, your name may be submitted to the Conservative Party of Canada. But saying it so casually belies the effort involved in even reporting your name. The Leitch campaign can’t report you until they spend the time it takes to prove your identity, format a complaint, and jump through whatever hoops that entails. This process will by necessity include a lot of wasted effort.

If 8,000 people badmouth Dr. Leitch on Twitter, that’s 8,000 tweets that have to be documented as evidence, 8,000 names that have to be discovered through detective work, and up to 8,000 complaints to submit to the Conservative Party. All this for no guaranteed reward, because the Leitch campaign won’t know if any of those people have even joined the party.

And let’s talk about the party. They’re going to get a bunch of names from the Leitch campaign (again, assuming the campaign isn’t lying and doesn’t give up when they realize how much work this all entails) with very little evidence that any of those people have broken their by-laws (or are even members of the party). This puts them in a conundrum. They have to at least look into the complaints or risk the ire of Dr. Leitch. But they can’t afford to take the Leitch campaign’s word on literally any of them.

The Conservative Party is going to have to investigate each complaint, which will be very costly in terms of time and money. It might be that they’ll lose money overall on an influx of people joining to vote against Dr. Leitch, just on the paperwork they’ll have to do to keep Dr. Leitch happy. Proper investigation will be necessary to ensure that in the event of a narrow Leitch victory, the runner up can’t complain that the process was rigged in favour of Dr. Leitch.

The Conservative Party is still a fragile alliance between several different groups. The “party elites” just want to make it through this leadership race with the party intact. At times, this has seemed to be in doubt. Imagine Mr. Chong loses to Dr. Leitch by 300 votes on the last ballot and the party disqualified the ballots of 1,000 members. Can the party even survive that? What if the positions are reversed? Mr. Chong wins by a couple hundred votes after the party refuses to disqualify any members and slaps Dr. Leitch with a substantial fine to boot. Can the party survive that?

Dr. Leitch and Mr. Kouvalis are playing with fire with Operation Flytrap. One thing is clear: it’s not the foes of the Conservative Party of Canada who stand to get burned.

P.S. I’m older than 14, have paid my membership fee, and I agree with all 22 of the party principles. Sorry Nick.

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Tags: canada, conservative leadership race, kellie leitch