Advisory Board - About Us - Samara

Advisory Board

Keith Archer

Keith Archer served as Chief Electoral Officer of British Columbia from 2011 to 2018. Prior to that appointment, he was Professor of Political Science at the University of Calgary from 1984 to 2011, where he currently holds the position of professor emeritus. He is the author, co-author or co-editor of 7 books and many articles and chapters on elections and voting, and he has a particular interest in youth political engagement. He currently serves as Executive Director of the Canadian Society for Election Official Training, a non-profit organization that provides training and professional development opportunities for permanent staff at federal, provincial and territorial election agencies in Canada.

Keith has been an elections consultant since June 2018.

Isabel Bassett

Former teacher, journalist, MPP and broadcasting executive, Isabel Bassett is a highly regarded pioneer of Canadian broadcasting. As past Chair and CEO of TVO (1999 – 2005) Ms. Bassett refocused the organization to deliver on its educational mandate. Elected to the Ontario legislature in 1995 as MPP for St. Andrew-St. Patrick, Ms. Bassett was appointed Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation in 1997. She has actively campaigned for the YWCA's Toronto Elm Street Centre for Affordable Housing for Women, York University’s Library, and Equal Voice, encouraging women to engage in politics and the boardroom. In 2016, Ms. Basset was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario.

Suresh Bhalla 

Suresh Bhalla is a retired senior financial expert who worked with several major Canadian and US banks during a distinguished career spanning three decades. Since retiring, he has served as Co-Chair of Human Rights Watch and on the board of the Toronto Community Foundation. Suresh has a longstanding interest in a variety of social and political causes.

Heather Conway 

Heather Conway served as the executive vice-president of CBC/Radio-Canada’s English services. Before becoming a member of CBC/Radio-Canada’s senior executive team, Heather was chief business officer at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Under her tenure, the gallery saw its attendance increase by 20 percent and achieved its highest membership levels. Prior to the AGO she was CEO of Edelman Canada. She is one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40 and is on the board of American Express Bank of Canada, IGM Financial, and the Walrus Foundation.

Heather has most recently become the Director of Great West Life since May 2019. She has also been the Director of American Express Canada since 2005.

George Cooper

George was Managing Trustee of the Killam Trusts, comprising $400 million for graduate and postdoctoral scholarships and research at five universities and the Canada Council. from 1983-2017. A lawyer by profession, he was President of the University of King’s College, Halifax, and is a former Member of Parliament. A Rhodes Scholar, George holds three honorary doctorate degrees and is a Member of the Order of Canada. He also serves on the Boards of the CBC and The Canadian Ditchley Foundation. 

Margaret Huber

Margaret Huber is a former career diplomat who served as Ambassador in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. During her extensive diplomatic career, she worked closely with international organizations including the United Nations, the European Union, the International Olympic Committee, the Asian Development Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross. She served as the Chief of Protocol of Canada from 2010 to 2013, was a Harvard Advanced Leadership Fellow in 2014, and was the past President and current Chair of the Harvard Club of Ottawa and the Canadian International Council-National Capital Branch. Margaret is an Advisory Board member for Pharos Global Health Advisors, and has been a Special Representative to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan since 2015. She also been a member of the Music Niagara Governance Committee since 2016.

She has been a supporter of Samara Centre for Democracy since 2014.

Jane Hilderman

Jane Hilderman recently served as the Executive Director of the Samara Centre for Democracy for four years, during which time she deepened Samara’s reputation and reach, especially on Parliament Hill. During her leadership tenure, the Samara Centre launched such flagship initiatives as the Democracy 360 as well as executed the second round of MP Exit Interviews. Jane previously worked on Parliament Hill and the US Embassy in Ottawa. She holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Toronto and a BAH from Queen’s University. Jane was raised on a farm in Alberta, and has newly returned to the Prairies, where she and her family are pursuing new adventures and opportunities in Winnipeg. 

Alison Loat

Alison Loat is the co-founder of the Samara Centre for Democracy and was the executive director from 2008 to 2015. She is also the co-author of the #1 best-selling book Tragedy in the Commons. The Samara Centre’s early work was used to develop federal legislation on democratic reform, improve politics curricula, the orientation of newly elected MPs and initiatives to improve citizens’ participation in politics. 

Alison is a member of the Premier of Ontario’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel and is on the board of the Banff Forum. She was also a fellow and instructor at the University of Toronto from 2007-2014 and served as the past president of the Canadian Club of Toronto, a director of the Toronto Community Foundation and a member of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Alumni Board.

Alison received several awards for her public service leadership, including the Queen’s Gold and Diamond Jubilee Medals. She is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, where she co-leads a disability rights initiative, and was named one of the WXN 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada. She has degrees from Queen’s University (BAH) and the Harvard Kennedy School (MPP).

Kevin Lynch

Kevin Lynch is the Vice-Chair of the BMO Financial Group. Prior to joining BMO, Mr. Lynch had a distinguished career in the Government of Canada, where he served as Clerk of the Privy Council, Secretary to the Cabinet, and Head of the Public Service of Canada and its 260,000 public servants. He was the Former Chancellor at the University of King's College, and currently is Chair of the Board of Directors at SNC Lavalin.

Kevin is the Director of CN Railway and a member of the Queen’s Privy Council in 2009, appointed to the Officer of the Order of Canada in 2011. He was awarded the Queen’s Diamond and Jubilee Medals for public service.

Robert Prichard

Robert Prichard is the Chair of Torys LLP and former Chairman of Metrolinx, after resigning in 2018 after nine years of service as President and CEO. He was previously President and CEO of Torstar Corporation and he is President Emeritus of the University of Toronto. He has been recognized by appointment as an officer of the Order of Canada and as a member of the Order of Ontario.

Perry Spitznagel

Perry Spitznagel is a lawyer and vice-chair of Bennett Jones and managing partner of the Calgary office. He is a senior corporate lawyer with over 30 years of national and international experience advising clients in a wide variety of high profile corporate matters and is a director of a number of private and public corporations. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 2010.