Alison Loat

Co-founder and Executive Director (on maternity leave until June 2015)

Alison Loat is the co-founder and executive director of Samara Canada, a non-partisan, charitable organization that improves political and civic participation in Canada. At Samara, Alison conducted Canada’s first-ever series of exit interviews with former Members of Parliament and initiates other research and education programs dedicated to reconnecting citizens and politics. 

She is the co-author of the #1 best-selling book Tragedy in the Commons. She has authored numerous reports and op-eds on public policy, politics and citizen participation and is a regular commentator and presenter on these topics. Samara’s work regularly receives coverage in all of Canada’s leading media properties, as well as in numerous local, online and international news organizations. It is often referenced by columnists and decision makers and has been used to develop federal legislation on democratic reform, improve politics curricula, the orientation of newly elected MPs as well as initiatives designed to improve citizens’ participation in politics. 

Alison is also a fellow and instructor at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance, where she teaches a course in healthcare consulting to policy and medical students. 

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Previously, Alison was an engagement manager at McKinsey & Company, where she led teams that developed strategies for both public and private organizations in Europe and North America, with a focus on financial services and healthcare. She was also the founder and first executive director of Canada25, a non-partisan organization that involved Canadians in the development of public policy. She also worked at the Privy Council Office in the Government of Canada and for the Medical and Related Sciences (MaRS) Discovery District, where she developed the first business plan for a major scientific commercialization facility in Toronto.  

She is also the past president of the Canadian Club of Toronto, the leading current affairs podium in Canada, a director of the Toronto Community Foundation and a member of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Alumni Board.  She has also served on advisory boards and committees at the University of Toronto, Ridley College and at the Canadian Journalism Foundation. 

Alison received several awards for her public service leadership, including the Queen’s Gold and Diamond Jubilee Medals and the Public Policy Forum’s Youth Leaders Award. She is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and was named one of the WXN 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada in 2013. She has degrees from Queen’s University (BAH) and the Harvard Kennedy School (MPP), where she won awards for academic, community and teaching excellence.


Michael MacMillan

Acting Co-director, Co-founder and Chair

In 2007 Michael co-founded Samara Canada which is a charity that is dedicated to reconnecting citizens to politics. Samara conducts original research and ongoing education and engagement programming such as “Democracy Talks” and the “Everyday Political Citizen” projects. 

In 2011, Michael co-founded and is CEO of Blue Ant Media, a Canadian-based media company. Blue Ant owns digital media properties and magazines (including Cottage Life) as well as television channels in Canada (such as Smithsonian Channel Canada and Love Nature) and New Zealand (Choice TV).

A member of the Order of Canada, Michael has volunteered with numerous community and industry organizations over many years, and is currently involved with Open Roof Films, Human Rights Watch, Civix, and the Community Food Centres Canada, amongst other organizations. He is a Senior Fellow at Massey College and co-author of the book Tragedy in the Commons.

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Michael MacMillan co-founded Atlantis Films Limited in 1978. In its early years, Atlantis was primarily a film and television production house, winning an Oscar in 1984 for its short film Boys and Girls and an Emmy in 1992 for Lost in the Barrens. In 1993 Atlantis became a broadcaster with the launch of its first network, Life Network. In 1998 Atlantis acquired Alliance Communications in a reverse takeover and the company became Alliance Atlantis Communications. Under Michael’s continued leadership, as Chairman and CEO, the company operated 13 Canadian television networks including HGTV Canada, Showcase Television, History Television and Food Network. The company also distributed and produced movies and television programs including the hit series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. In 2007, Michael retired from Alliance Atlantis after selling the company to Canwest Communications and Goldman Sachs.

Michael is a co-founder and co-owner of Closson Chase Vineyards and Winery in Prince Edward Country, Ontario. It makes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.

Kendall Anderson

Director of Communications and Acting Co-director

Kendall is responsible for all aspects of Samara’s communications including the production of ground-breaking research reports and educational materials, as well as interactive online engagement projects like the Everyday Political Citizen. Before joining Samara in 2011, Kendall was an editor for ten years at Random House of Canada where she worked with bestselling authors of both novels and non-fiction. Kendall studied publishing at both Ryerson University and Simon Fraser University, and she has a BSc from the University of Guelph, which she currently only uses to prevent her two young children from contracting food-borne illnesses.

Jane Hilderman

Director of Research and Acting Co-director

As Director of Research, Jane oversees dynamic projects exploring where Canadians participate politically, how MPs do their jobs, and citizen perceptions of MPs and political parties. This research is shared publicly through Samara's Democracy Reports series, which Jane frequently discusses in radio and television interviews. Jane also helps lead Samara as an Acting Director in addition to her role as Director of Research. A graduate of the School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Toronto and Queen’s University, Jane has worked on Parliament Hill for both government and opposition benches through the longstanding Parliamentary Internship Programme. Jane joined Samara in 2011. 


Jenn Phillips

Communications and Operations Coordinator

Before joining Samara, Jenn spent several years in the trenches of politics at every level of government. From the House of Commons, to municipal government, to the gruelling world of political campaigns, Jenn has seen the mechanics of how our institutions function from the ground up. Jenn has a Political Science Degree from Simon Fraser University, where she focused her studies on Canadian politics and government. Jenn has also studied publishing at Simon Fraser University. Born and raised in Vancouver, BC, Jenn moved to Ottawa, ON in 2009 and now calls Toronto home.


Laura Anthony

Research Analyst

Laura is involved in all stages of Samara’s research; from the first conceptualization of an idea, to conducting research and statistical analysis, to crafting the final report.  Her office nicknames include Number Guru and Internet Ninja. Prior to Samara, Laura has held positions at Pollara, University of Western Ontario and Student Vote. Laura holds a Master of Arts in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Political Science from the University of Toronto. Her Master’s research paper examined the extent to which political culture aids and abets the development of political duty at the provincial level. Her research interests include voting behaviour, civic engagement, political psychology, and the role of political parties. Laura joined Samara in 2012. 



Mark Dance 

Communications Coordinator and Community Animator

Before joining Samara to tackle communications and community, Mark was a freelance journalist and a Studio Y innovation fellow at the MaRS Discovery District. Mark has worked on Parliament Hill for government and opposition MPs through the non-partisan Parliamentary Internship Programme, has taught in northern Ontario with Frontier College and has worked in writing and editorial capacities at the Halifax Chronicle Herald and Lapham’s Quarterly in New York City, respectively. He studied cognitive science at the University of Edinburgh and humanities at the University of King’s College.


John Beebe

Manager of Outreach

John’s passion for building strong communities has led him to work which spans many worlds including education, community organizing, photography and politics. Most recently, John worked for Pathways to Education Canada, strengthening their tutoring programs on a national level. He began his formal political engagement working for Congress in the United States where he saw first-hand the benefits that people who can effectively engage the political system derive from it. And, on the flipside—the disadvantages for those who remain on the outside. John’s work has all been tied together by a belief in strengthening people’s understanding of the power that they have. At Samara, John runs Democracy Talks and is currently tackling the bigger project of enhancing the impact of Samara’s work through community partnerships and programs. He is also hopeful that his citizenship application is approved in time for him to vote in the 2014 election.


Emily Walker

Assistant to Directors

Emily is responsible for providing support to acting co-directors Jane Hilderman and Kendall Anderson, as well as assisting Samara’s communications and research functions. Before joining Samara in early 2015, Emily lived in England where she studied History and Spanish at the University of Leeds and, thereafter, worked as a literary agent’s assistant in London. Born in Canada, Emily is excited to have returned to her native home and is looking forward to voting for the first time in the upcoming federal election. 

Other collaborators


Samara's MP Exit Interviews were conducted with the support of a wide network of researchers and advisors. Alison Loat, Michael MacMillan, Reva Seth, Morris Chochla and Marieve Forest conducted the interviews. Sarah Blanchard, Grant Burns, Suzanne Gallant, Shira Honig and Myna Kota conducted the data analysis.  Fourteen university professors from six Canadian universities also assisted at various stages of the project, and numerous others reviewed initial drafts and provided important suggestions for improvement.  Their names are listed here, and we thank them all for their work, advice and encouragement.

Other advisors

In addition to those on its Advisory Board, Samara's mission, activities and research were shaped based on the feedback of nearly 300 Canadians from across the country.  Thank you to all those who took time to provide advice and assistance.

"With a federal election scheduled for Oct. 19, the Samara report is a great resource for Canadians interested in talking about how our democracy could improve."    
Bob Hepburn
The Toronto Star

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