For weeks, Eve Adams has felt shaky; beset by headaches, frequently nauseous and generally exhausted. It’s the after-effects of a grade-2 concussion she suffered in late February when she slipped and hit her head on the ice outside a downtown Ottawa deli. But the speed with which the Ontario MP has fallen from grace in the Conservative Party must be just as disorientating. The photogenic 39-year-old’s star had been in steady ascension since her election in 2011. As parliamentary secretary, first for Veteran’s Affairs and now Health, she’d become a familiar fixture on the political panel shows, promoting everything from get-tough laws against the desecration of war memorials to safe Christmas toys. For a while, she filled one of the coveted face-time seats right behind the Prime Minister during Question Period, and was ranked 3rd-sexiest female MP by the Hill Times. She got to lead William and Kate around the Canadian War Museum as the cameras clicked. And she formed the glamourous half of one of the capital’s most-recognized power couples, hooking up with Dimitri Soudas, the ex-Stephen Harper spokesman who was later elevated to the Tories’ top job, executive director of the party.
Now, following complaints from fellow Conservatives, Adams is under investigation by her own—accused of throwing her weight around in the battle for the nomination in the new riding of Oakville North-Burlington and misusing parliamentary and party resources in her cause. Adams, who currently represents the nearby Mississauga-Brampton South district, says she has done nothing wrong. However, the allegations of impropriety and favouritism have already seen her fiancé pushed out of his job. And there’s speculation that Harper’s preferred solution to the kerfuffle is to add her to the growing crowd of former loyalists—Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Nigel Wright, Soudas—who now reside under the party bus.
Adams declined Maclean’s request for an interview, saying the time has come to bring down the temperature and take Conservative business back behind closed doors. But her family, friends, supporters—and even her soon-to-be ex-husband (they are not yet divorced) —are speaking out on her behalf. They paint a picture of a dedicated and driven MP who is falling victim to smear campaign orchestrated by her would-be opponent in Oakville, Natalia Lischyna, a local chiropractor. Abetted by a new riding association that features John Mykytyshyn, a well-known Tory warrior with a reputation for bare-knuckle politics.
“He’s been stacking meetings and directing riding campaigns for decades,” says Arthur Kryzycki, a former Tory staffer and longtime Adams friend. “If there’s an uncomfortable situation that can be made worse, he has the skill and aptitude to do it.”
Beth Gregg, a former riding association president who is volunteering for Adams’s Oakville campaign, wonders why Mykytyshyn, a Hamilton resident and paid organizer, is even on the board. “There’s definitely some animosity,” she says. “And it definitely doesn’t do anything to help Conservatives. All it does is give whoever the Liberals run a hell of a lot more ammunition.”
Mykytyshyn wasn’t immediately available for comment. But his sudden emergence as the villain suggests that Soudas—another accomplished practitioner of the political dark arts—isn’t taking his ouster from the party heights, lightly. For a week now, the Adams and Soudas saga has been front page news in Canada. Running from the ridiculous—allegations by an Ottawa gas station owner that she pitched a fit over a subpar car wash—to the sublime, an above-the-fold Globe and Mail photo of the happy couple holding hands and walking a pair of borrowed pugs in a park. Is the coverage of a one-term MP’s nomination battle in an obscure Greater Toronto riding disproportionate? Yup. But right now, it’s the most dizzying show in Canadian politics.
If Adams did have a beef with her local Ottawa Esso, it at least came from an informed perspective. “We grew up in a gas station,” says her younger brother Bill Horvat. Their parents, both émigrés from Hungary, worked for the better part of their lives pumping fuel and washing windshields. And their three children (Adams also has an older brother, Jim) were always on hand, from playpen days behind the counter, to the homework years in the back room, and ultimately serving clients themselves. The first station in Sudbury eventually grew into a modest independent chain, with outlets in Simcoe, Cambridge and Hamilton, where the Horvats settled. They weren’t rich, but they weren’t poor either.
From an early age, Eve seemed destined for bigger things, recalls Bill. She was remarkably well-spoken, despite the fact that she really didn’t start learning English until she entered kindergarten. And she overflowed with passion. “She had strong opinions about the way things should be,” he says. Politics came naturally. Their father, shaped by his experiences under Communist rule, became a staunch Conservative in Canada. And by the time she was in her early teens, Eve had joined the party’s youth wing and was volunteering as a door knocker and envelope stuffer for campaigns.
At the end of high school, Adams won a spot as a Parliamentary page in Ottawa—each year 40 students from across the nation are chosen to work part-time in the House while studying at a local university. It was 1992, during the height of the debate over the Charlottetown Accord. “She more or less taught herself French to qualify,” says her brother. “She’s very driven.”
Afterwards, she transferred to the University of Western Ontario and earned a BA in psychology. But politics remained her passion. Following her studies, she took a job with the Mike Harris government, working for three different ministers over eight years at Queen’s Park.
In the mid-1990s, she married Peter Adams, a former assistant to Michael Wilson, the minister of International Trade. They had first met years earlier at a party seminar for future leaders, forming a friendship that eventually blossomed into a romance.
Peter describes his ex-wife’s entry into politics as almost accidental. They had purchased a house in a new Mississauga development that caught fire during construction, burning their and 20-other families’ unfinished homes to the ground. When the replacements were finally completed, there were many problems and Eve became the new neighbourhood’s go-between with the builders, cataloguing residents’ complaints and pushing to have them addressed. In 2003, she decided to try for the local seat on Mississauga City Council. With her husband acting as her campaign manager, they blitzed every home in the ward and won, knocking off the chosen candidate of the all-powerful mayor, Hazel McCallion.
In seven years on city council, Adams developed a reputation as a fierce defender of her constituents and turf. “Eve—if you ever tried to shut down anything in her ward, like a library—she’s like a mother tiger,” former federal Liberal MP and then council colleague Carolyn Parrish told the Toronto Star in 2011. “She’ll rip your head off.”
But her municipal career was also punctuated with embarrassing incidents. During the 2003 race, her husband, Peter, and brother Jim were found with a carload of purloined election signs belonging to her opponents. Charges of possession of stolen property were later dropped in exchange for a charitable donation. And in 2006, Adams had her knuckles rapped after two of her office employees complained that they were being forced to canvas voters during working hours and in the evenings.
Peter Adams says the incidents were blown out of proportion and had more to do with McCallion’s hardly-hidden antipathy for his ex-wife, than anything else. (During her time on council there was much speculation that Adams intended to run against the woman who has held the mayor’s job since 1978.) “When you stand out, you attract attention, and sometimes it’s going to be negative,” he says.
But it’s also true that Adams’ style and ambition has not always endeared her to her colleagues. During their time together on city council, she and Parrish formed a close friendship, despite their different party allegiances. But a rift after Adams won her federal seat in 2011—Peter threw his hat into the ring for his wife’s council job after Parrish, who had been defeated in the previous municipal vote, had already launched her own campaign—has never been repaired. “4 years of close, close friendship blown for her personal ambitions,” Parrish griped on social media this past week. “May be my last tweet on Eve Adams. When despicable, remorseless, cold, arrogant,narcissistic creatures self-destruct, stand back and let them.”
Patrick Brown, the Member of Parliament for Barrie, and head of the Conservatives’ Ontario caucus, has known Adams for almost 20-years, and describes her as a diligent worker and true believer in the cause. “She’s a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative, very committed,” he says. “She didn’t just get involved because we were in power, or on the cusp of a majority.” However, when asked if she is popular with her Ottawa colleagues, Brown lets the question hang in the air. “I wouldn’t say she is unpopular,” he says finally. “Like anyone, she has her friends and foes.”
During her time in Ottawa, Adams has certainly received more publicity—and come under more scrutiny—than most Parliamentary Secretaries. There were whispers that the PMO was displeased when she went on a shopping safari to New York during Remembrance Week while still in the Veteran’s portfolio. Some $6,000 in disallowed campaign expenses for things like victory parties, traffic tickets, haircuts and nail jobs, received significant attention. And since she and Soudas went public with their relationship in the fall of 2011—just weeks after he had left his PMO job to spend more time with his then wife and young family—the media’s already gossipy fascination with her has only intensified.
Peter Adams says they try to shield their son, now 8, from the worst of it. “He knows that in politics, people often get animated.” And while they have gone “in different directions,” her ex says he remains among Eve’s admirers. “She’s passionate, she’s caring, she’s a great mother,” he says. “It’s tough to see the way she’s being characterized when you know the real story.”
Her brother Bill, a Grade 8 teacher, bristles most at those who paint Adams as having an over-developed sense of entitlement. “That’s a gross misinterpretation,” he says. “She’s always been driven to the point where if she wants something she works hard at it.” Their mother, who still struggles with English, has been calling him almost daily seeking translations of the latest articles in the paper about Eve. And she, like everyone else in the family, is concerned about how a political career that showed such promise now seems to be “snowballing” out of control.
Everyone who knows Adams invariably describes her as intelligent. “She’s one of the brightest people I know,” says Arthur Kryzycki. She’s fluent in three languages and can get by in two others. “She’s attractive, but she’s no Barbie doll,” says Beth Gregg. “She knows her files.”
But anyone who follows Ottawa knows that it’s the kind of place where street smarts often prove more useful than advanced degrees, and fortunes change fast enough to induce vertigo. The question now is whether Eve Adams can regain her equilibrium.