Alison Loat

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

Alison is the co-author of Tragedy in the Commons: Former Members of Parliament Speak Out About Canada’s Failing Democracy, published by Random House in April 2014. She previously worked at McKinsey & Company and co-founded Canada25, an organization that successfully involved thousands of Canadians under 35 in the development of public policy. For her public service work with Canada25, Alison was chosen as one of Canada's Top 25 under 30 by Maclean's magazine and in 2005 she received the Public Policy Forum Young Leaders Award. Alison is a graduate of Queen's University and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is also an associate fellow and instructor at the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto.

Michael MacMillan

Acting Director, Co-founder and Chair

Michael is the co-author of Tragedy in the Commons: Former Members of Parliament Speak Out About Canada’s Failing Democracy, published by Random House in April 2014. He's also the CEO of the Canadian-based company Blue Ant Media. He was previously the executive chairman and CEO of Alliance Atlantis Communications. MacMillan co-founded the original Atlantis Films in 1978, which won an Oscar in 1984 for its short film Boys and Girls. A recipient of the Gold and Diamond Jubilee Medals for service to Canada, he is also a co-owner of Closson Chase Vineyard and Winery in Prince Edward County, Ontario. 

Kendall Anderson

Acting Director and Communications Manager

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

Acting Director and Research Manager

As Research Manager, 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. Beginning in May 2014, Jane will also help lead Samara as an Acting Director in addition to her role as Research Manager. 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. 


Sally Lee

Director of Development and Events

Sally brings to Samara over 25 years of experience in the not-for-profit arts sector. Her most recent focus has been on fundraising and government relations in her work with organizations such as Artists for Peace and Justice Canada, Soulpepper Theatre Company and the Toronto International Film Festival. She has also worked with grassroots community groups such as the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto and the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. She currently sits on the Advocacy Committee at the Toronto Arts Council, the Board of the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre, and the Advisory Board of Reel Asian, and is assisting the fundraising efforts of Friends of the PanAm Path.

Jenn Phillips

Communications and Operations Coordinator

Jenn has spent the past 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

Prior to Samara, Laura completed an internship at Pollara where she conducted research on consumer and political behaviour. During this internship her main project was an analysis of Ontario’s non-profit sector, including the financial status and scope of these organizations. 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. During her graduate studies Laura acted as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for an introductory political science course. She has also investigated the nature of youth’s civic engagement during an internship at Student Vote. Her research interests include voting behaviour, civic engagement, political psychology, and the role of political parties.


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.

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.