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David Herle, LL.B.

David Herle is one of Canada’s most sought after public affairs and corporate strategists, having helped CEOs manage crises, union leaders shape their public appeals and directing winning campaigns for both prime ministers and premiers.

With more than 20 years of experience in research and communications analysis, David has built a reputation as a source of smart, strategic and strong counsel. David’s strategic and political acumen can be seen on CBC’s The National, where he provides biweekly commentary on “The Insiders” panel.   

With his dual expertise in strategy and research, David excels in brand image and reputation management. He has helped clients such as Maple Leaf Foods with crisis management and brand recovery. He has worked with industries such as the nuclear energy sector to reposition them publicly within the context of a more environmentally-conscious marketplace.

David’s policy experience includes working on nine consecutive federal government budgets, most notably the landmark 1995 budget that paved the way for eliminating the federal deficit by dramatically cutting government spending. That budget turned conventional political wisdom on its head by making a “bad news” budget a huge political success.

David has also served as Premier Kathleen Wynne’s campaign co-chair and steered the Ontario Liberals to a majority government in 2014. As the national campaign chair for the Liberal Party, he also helped to engineer the Right Honourable Paul Martin’s electoral victory in 2004.

He is frequently featured as a speaker and lecturer at universities and conferences on such topics as politics, economic policy, consumer and branding issues, energy, health care, crisis management, agriculture, and the environment.

A Saskatchewan native, David earned his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Regina and was called to the Bar in Ontario after receiving his LLB from the University of Saskatchewan.

Jennifer Espey, PhD

Jennifer is an innovative and respected researcher with a record of helping clients understand the social, economic and environmental attitudes that affect their interests.

Overseeing and conducting much of the public opinion and special-audience research for Gandalf clients, Jennifer is one of the country’s most skilled engineers of qualitative and quantitative research instruments. She has worked as an opinion researcher and analyst for more than 25 years.

For private sector clients, Jennifer oversees the full range of research needs, working closely with organizations to help tailor and shape research instruments to serve their specific needs. She moderates focus groups, analyses data, identifies critical insights and leads all advanced investigation techniques including multivariate regression analysis, hierarchical cluster analysis and factor analysis. Jennifer is also an expert on how to design consultation methodologies, including deliberative techniques, to more fully include a range of public perspectives on policy issues.

Jennifer has worked extensively in the public sector and helped to design research programs that have influenced public policy formulation and public communications. Among others, she has worked for the federal Department of Heritage, the Department of Justice, Health Canada, the Department of Industry, the Department of Northern and Indian Affairs, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, the Ontario Ministry of Energy and Western Economic Diversification.

Jennifer has also worked extensively with non-governmental organizations including Advertising Standards Canada, the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Childcare Federation, the Childcare Advocacy Association of Canada, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and the Canadian Centre for Renewable Energy.

Jennifer’s skills have also been employed electorally, helping to design and monitor research programs for winning election campaigns at the federal and provincial levels. In this capacity, she tracks public opinion, conducts advanced analyses of data and works with the strategy team to provide policy and communication recommendations based on the research findings.

Throughout her career, she has particularly focused on how gender operates in society, government and policies. In this role, she worked with a number of organizations including the Task Force for an Inclusive Public Service for Treasury Board to discuss, in roundtables across the country, how to use research to introduce alternative perspectives to the public policy development process. Jennifer also worked with the Law Society of Upper Canada to identify programs to assist women to stay in the legal practice.

As a matter of practice, Jennifer seeks to design research that allows for a range of alternative understandings to be made visible, including marginalized populations such as Canadians with disabilities and First Nation peoples. In this capacity, as an expert on how the production of social knowledge critically defines policy outcomes, Jennifer worked with the First Nations Statistics Institute for the creation of a public research space to create knowledge of First Nation peoples by First Nation peoples.

Expert and involved in a wide range of policy areas, Jennifer has helped utilize research findings to develop strategies in fields such as aboriginal affairs, energy and conservation, disability policy, pension reform, youth and children, climate change, and more.

A resident of the National Capital region, Jennifer earned her PhD, Masters and BA at the University of New Mexico.


Silvia Presenza, B.A., LL.B.

Silvia Presenza is an experienced strategic advisor who specializes in helping C-suite leaders and their organizations successfully navigate moments of change, challenge and transition.  

With nearly twenty years’ experience in business and corporate affairs, Silvia is adept at introducing strategic clarity to organizations confronting major turning points. She has counselled major financial institutions, large retailers, integrated media companies and other organizations of nearly every size and shape.

A lawyer by training, Silvia applies a disciplined, detail-driven approach to creating organizational and employee buy-in for her clients. By creating a sense of shared mission and common goals, she is able to help organizations work together toward the achievement of their objectives. Her areas of specialty include mergers and acquisitions, executive change, financial restructurings, labour relations, shareholder disputes and corporate re-brandings.

As part of her work, Silvia provides a number of specific services to clients including strategic planning, transition support, executive coaching, values mapping, stakeholder and shareholder management and more.

After practicing civil litigation with a major downtown Toronto law firm, Silvia gained experience working in government at Queen’s Park, led her own management consulting firm and served as the Vice President of Corporate Affairs for a well-known international financial institution.

A mother of one daughter, Silvia holds a BA in History and Political Science from Laurentian University, and a LLB from the University of Windsor.

Alexander Swann

Alex Swann is a skilled public opinion researcher with more than fifteen years of project management experience and particular expertise at integrating research findings with strategic communications recommendations.

In his role at Gandalf, Alex oversees quantitative and qualitative research, designing and executing projects on behalf of a wide variety of clients. In his role, he moderates focus groups, conducts one-on-one interviews and provides quantitative analysis. He has also developed specialized expertise in advertising testing, policy deliberation, customer satisfaction surveys and message testing.

Alex’s clients are drawn from a wide variety of sectors including financial services, health care, energy and electricity, food and beverage and solar power. He is also responsible for managing the C-Suite survey of ROB1000 executives, the quarterly results of which appear in the Globe and Mail and on BNN.

His communications expertise includes strategic planning, crisis and issues management, message development and media relations. He has helped dozens of clients transfer critical research findings into actionable communications strategies and tactics.

Prior to joining Gandalf, Alex held senior roles in government and politics, serving as the communications director to the former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Minister of Health and Minister of Public Safety.

Fluently bilingual, Alex holds a BA and MA from the University of Toronto.


Melissa Branco

Melissa has been with The Gandalf Group since 2011 assisting the Partners in ongoing operations of the firm, including management of all client files and special projects. She has worked with various clients on communications campaigns, supporting marketing, brand, public relations and government relations efforts as well as issues management.

Prior to joining The Gandalf Group, Melissa worked in the Corporate and Public Affairs division of a public relations agency in Toronto.

Melissa also has over a decade of experience coordinating and managing qualitative market research projects. She has worked both on the supplier side and with moderators ensuring quality control of respondents, managing logistics for focus groups, designing respondent screeners and drafting research reports.

Melissa graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications Studies and Linguistics from York University and holds certificates in Public Relations from Ryerson University and in Project Management from the University of Toronto.

Kyla Ronellenfitsch

Kyla Ronellenfitsch is an Ottawa-based Senior Consultant with The Gandalf Group. Kyla is an experienced researcher, advising a wide spectrum of public and private sector clients.

A long-time advocate for increasing female representation across the Canadian political spectrum, Kyla has sat on Equal Voice’s National Board of Directors and continues to assist the organization.

Kyla has a Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management and a Master's Degree in Political Management - both from Carleton University.

Marina Mandic

Marina has extensive experience in market research design and advanced data analyses. Her primary responsibilities at The Gandalf Group include analysis and reporting of studies and support for research conducted by the Partners. She has supported research for clients across many sectors including energy, financial, and government.

Prior to joining The Gandalf Group, Marina worked in the research industry as a research analyst and a collaborator on multiple publications at The Rotman Research Institute, a Toronto based premier international centre for the study of human brain function. She has also worked on a freelance basis on data analysis and reporting.

Marina has a Master's Degree in Science from the University of Toronto, Postgraduate Research Analyst Degree form Humber College, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Belgrade.

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