When expensive political campaign strategists are brought in you know the candidate is getting close to the bone

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 30th, 2018



It’s a story that isn’t going to go away and the telephone election polling being done doesn’t appear to be stopping.

Campaign Research appears to have revised the questions they are asking the people they call in Burlington which suggests that the client is still intent on attempting to collect some information and at the same time using historical information out of context to hammer the reputation Mayoralty candidate Marianne Meed Ward’s reputation,

Meed Ward worked for a number of years as a columnist for the Toronto Sun. Anyone who wants to put a specific spin on what another person who writes for the public won’t find it difficult to do a really good smear job on them. Columnists have opinions – that’s why they are hired. Some are provocative, others entertaining. We all have our favourites.

I usually can’t wait to read what Maureen Dowd has to say in the New York Times and there is certainly a colourful background story on her.

Looking north from Queens Head

There is a lot of money riding on this development. They want what the guy across the street has in terms of height. This rendering is on Brant from the Queen’s Head looking north.

What Burlington is seeing is this – significant financial interests don’t like the impact Meed Ward is having on the rate and kind of development the city is experiencing.

Meed Ward, often described as a populist (I’ve never understood what’s wrong with being a populist) can be very blunt and direct. She has an agenda – as a politician she is supposed to have an agenda.

For some politicians their agenda is for the ward they represent. Meed Ward has always seen the city and the Region as her agenda and a city that meets the needs of the people who live here as she understands them.

She is described as well as “divisive” – that she isn’t a team player. She has chosen not to work with the current political team at city hall because she thinks they are dead wrong and she has a level of support that suggests she just might be right.

That she has the support of a large sector of the city impacts what the developers are going to get away with. Development is now all about money.

There was a time when developers cared about the communities they were building – that day has come and gone. It is now about how much you can make and keep.

The number of new developers who are new to Burlington is significant. They see a market in which they can get just about anything they want – and they are either buying up properties or getting options to buy.
Residents see opportunities to make a bundle on selling their homes – everyone wins.

Meed Ward sees it differently.


Quiet streets with good homes – the Burlington many people want to defend and they believe Meed Ward is the person who will deliver for them.

She believes that the city is where people live and the quality of life they have experienced can continue as long as there is some level of control over the growth that is taking place.

There are numbers being put out saying that the city has to grow by a certain number of homes and jobs – it doesn’t look as if anyone knows what the 30+ development applications that are said to be working their way through the Planning department will amount to.

Which brings us back to the telephone survey that has been taking place and is still underway.
Someone wants to know just where the political support is in this city. There are three serious candidates (the fourth needs to get another hobby). Each offers very clear choices.

MMW benefit graphic

Meed Ward has always been a different campaign. She ruffles the feathers of her colleagues on city council; asks more questions than all the others combined and truly believes that the people she represent deserve a better form of local government.

The Meed Ward choice threatens the interests of people with a lot of money who don’t want to lose the opportunities they see in Burlington.

So they do some research and in the process do whatever they can to besmirch the reputation of one of the candidates by bringing up stuff she wrote more than a decade ago and then putting it in a different context.

It’s sort of like asking a man if he is still beating his wife. The answer to the question isn’t the issue – it is the question that is all wrong.

That’s what applies to what it taking place now and people in Burlington need to see the situation for what it is.

This business about being divisive is just another way of saying Meed Ward asks questions that make me uncomfortable – and that she does. That’s what her job is and she appears to be doing it quite well – too well for some people.

Goldring doing CBC interview

Mayor Rick Goldring being interviewed by CBC

The CBC radio office in Hamilton has done a good job of digging out a large part of the story. (We would love to have the resources they have.) They got a statement from the Mayor – he appears to have chosen not to release a statement to all media. Goldring, who is running for re-election against Meed Ward, said he had nothing to do with the poll. “It was definitely not me. It’s certainly not my style.”

In the CBC report Councillor Marianne Meed Ward says she first received word from residents on Sunday afternoon she was being mentioned in a telephone survey conducted by Toronto-based consulting firm Campaign Research — which counts controversial conservative political strategist Nick Kouvalis as one of its heads.

Meed Ward called the statements made about her “untrue, inflammatory and defamatory.” Campaign Research denies that. “This is heinous and it needs to stop,” Meed Ward said.

Sue Connor with Jim Young

Jim Young at a transit meeting.

Burlington resident Jim Young told said he received a call Monday afternoon.  “It started off like a fairly regular political poll, he said, “consisting of rating candidates on a scale of one to 10, and indicating how certain he was that he would support a particular candidate.”

Young said that he planned to vote for Meed Ward and then the tone of the questions the person was asking changed.

“At that point, the questions became very strange,” Young said. The woman conducting the poll said she was going to give several statements about Meed Ward, and instructed Young to indicate on a scale of one to 10 how likely he was to change his vote because of them.

The questions asked, which don’t deserve repeating, were in Jim Young’s words “seemed like character assassination.”

Young wanted to complain about the questions being asked and was told that the survey was being done by Campaign Research and was offered a telephone number in case he wanted to complain.
Young said he called the number, and got an automated recording for Campaign Research.

Campaign Research denies survey was defamatory

In an email, Campaign Research Principal Richard Ciano said the company will not “disclose, discuss, confirm, or deny the existence of any matter relating to who its clients are, or may be, or any work Campaign Research Inc. may perform on behalf of its clients unless specifically required to do so by law, or unless specifically directed to do so by our clients.”

Nick of Campaign Research

Nick Kouvalis, a campaign strategist with a reputation os his own that he uses to drum up business from people who want deep background on public office candidates.

Legal counsel for Campaign Research said, “We vehemently contest your characterization of the subject statements as ‘defamatory’.”

He also said the poll was conducted for “another market research firm, whose identity we cannot disclose due to confidentiality.”

A bunch of guys just taking care of business – see them for what they are.

Salt with Pepper are the opinions, reflections, observations and musings of the Gazette publisher

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6 comments to When expensive political campaign strategists are brought in you know the candidate is getting close to the bone

  • Jim Young

    Dear Ken. I received one of the push poll surveys and let me assure you the venom in the questions outweighs any “free publicity” . While Marianne Meed Ward was the target, I would not wish that level of offence on any candidate nor should it be any part of our reasonably fair and transparent democratic processes. Push Polling is a brush you would not want to be tarred with my friend.

  • Hans

    I would like to see some new rules to keep these bottom feeders from interfering in our democratic processes without identifying their employer.

  • Stephen White

    According to Campaign Research’s website they are members of MRIA (Market Research Intelligence Association). One would hope/expect that they adhere to and support MRIA’s Code of Conduct posted on that organization’s website:


    MRIA also has a Complaints and Adjudication process.

    Hint, hint!!

  • Collin

    It shows how cowardly this attack on Meed Ward is that Campaign Research can hide behind another PR firm that is working for the actual client. We need legislation to protect us against this sort of skullduggery. Fat chance, though, with Premier Flintstone and his merry crew in charge.

  • Michael Hribljan

    Clearly Marianne’s campaign is causing significant concern for a cowardly third party that stands to lose the most with a change in council. Mayor Goldring’s comments certainly illustrate a lack of leadership. As the current Mayor I would think he would want to get to the bottom of this and ensure a fair election in our City as opposed to the “not me”, “not my style” response. He is still the Mayor and one of his councilors is under an outside attack on her credibility – no?

  • Ken

    Gee…I wish I had a negative Push Poll done on me. That way I could get all the free press I could handle and play the lead role of Victim in my own made for TV movie.

    FYI people; nearly 70% of Burlingtonians can’t be bothered to vote let alone care for who’s running.