Are you a student or emerging professional? Join PAAC for its semi-annual speed mentoring event! This is a unique opportunity to meet with successful senior professionals working across the public affairs industry. Those currently working in public affairs are also welcome to attend and network amongst peers.

Don’t miss dynamic discussions covering a variety of topics, including career path recommendations and moves, work-life balance, and experiential requirements to name but a few.


Kris Barnier
Vice President, Government Relations
Genworth Canada

Kris is Genworth Canada’s Vice President of Government Relations. Genworth Canada is our country’s largest provider of mortgage default insurance, a mandatory product for buyers who purchase a home with a down payment of less than 20%.  Kris joined the Company in 2012.

Prior to joining the Company, he served in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition of Ontario.  He has held senior Government Relations and Policy roles with the Toronto Board of Trade and Canadian Automobile Association.  He has also served in the offices of the Premier of Ontario, Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier of Ontario, and the Office of the Attorney General/Minister of Aboriginal Affairs of Ontario.

He serves as Vice-President of the Mortgage and Title Insurance Industry Association of Canada and is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Oakville Chamber of Commerce, where he also serves as Chair of its Government Relations Committee.

Michael Diamond
Campaign Strategist and Political Commentator
Upstream Strategy Group

Michael Diamond is a campaign strategist and political commentator. He has worked on over twenty political campaigns in five provinces. A specialist in grassroots engagement, Michael has helped leverage the power of stakeholders for well-known clients in Canada, the US, and Australia. Michael has been a senior adviser to politicians and political parties across Canada, including the provincial Progressive Conservative Party in Manitoba. He served as the Director of Operations to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in 2010, when he co-chaired the “get out the vote” effort. Michael served as campaign manager for Doug Ford’s successful 2018 Progressive Conservative Party leadership bid. This leadership race was the highest membership participation race in the party’s history. He was the 2018 Progressive Conservative Campaign Director for the general election.

Michael is a regular contributor to Canadian media, where he offers his insights on politics and culture. Michael understands what it takes to win – both in political war rooms, and in the kitchen, where he enjoys being an amateur chef.

Michelle Eaton
Vice President, Communications and Government Relations
Ontario Chamber of Commerce

A communications and public affairs professional for close to 15 years, Michelle Eaton joined the OCC team in 2018 as Vice President of Communications and Government Relations.

Michelle brings extensive leadership experience from both the public and private sectors. She has provided strategic direction, vision, and advice on communications and public affairs strategies to executives in multinational Fortune 500 Companies as well as senior federal cabinet ministers.

Ryan Eickmeier
Executive Director
Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC)

Ryan is the Executive Director of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC), a volunteer led not-for profit association that provides the voice for organized snowmobiling in the Province of Ontario. The mission of the OFSC is to provide leadership to member organizations in our commitment to enable exceptional snowmobile trails and rider experiences throughout the province.

Before the OFSC, Ryan was the Vice President, Government Relations & Public Policy with the Canadian Franchise Association (CFA), the recognized authority on franchising in Canada. Ryan was responsible for increasing the influence of the CFA and advocating for favourable public policy to support franchising in the marketplace through government relations, strategic public policy partnerships and advocacy at the federal and provincial levels.

Before CFA, Ryan was the Senior Director, Public Affairs at GS1 Canada, the world’s leading supply chain standards organization. Prior to joining GS1 Canada, Ryan was the Director, Government Relations & Policy at the Real Property Association of Canada (REALpac), where he helped lead the commercial real estate sector through proactive and reactive advocacy campaigns. Ryan was also an Associate at the political consulting firm Greener and Hook, LLC where he worked on both the political and corporate side of the company. Ryan worked extensively with political candidates and corporations at all levels on messaging, strategy, research, and social media communications.

Chris M. Rougier
Partner and Accounts Director
MPH Agency

Chris has been Account Director at MPH Agency since early 2015 and is responsible for strategy, project direction and execution for all of its Canadian and US clients.

Working in close collaboration with non-for-profit and political clients, Chris has been involved in direct mail, voter contact and data management for more than 12 years. He has become an expert in profiling and targeting potential supporters and donors for fundraising.

Prior to joining MPH Agency, Chris has worked with all levels of government, both in Canada and internationally. He has worked with the Conservative Party of Canada and over 40 municipal and provincial election campaigns across Canada. Chris has worked on federal elections in Australia and the UK, and worked on the 2012 Florida Primary and played a key role on the Presidential National Support Team. Most recently, Chris was National Campaign Manager for the highly-publicized and ground-breaking Kevin O’Leary Leadership Campaign.

He has worked with clients such as True North Initiative, GBF Community Services, the Conservative Party of Canada, Ontario PC Party, and United Conservative Party.

Phil Gillies
Executive Director
Ontario Construction Consortium

Phil Gillies is a former MPP for Brantford, and a former Minister of Skills Development and Youth for the Province of Ontario.  His career in public policy, strategy and communications has spanned four decades.  In 2014 Phil was Manager of Policy for the John Tory mayoralty campaign in Toronto.  At Mayor Tory’s request, in 2015 Phil served as Secretary of the Mayor’s Task Force on Toronto Community Housing.

Phil has been a commentator on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning and on Newstalk 1010, and is a guest columnist in the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun and the Hamilton Spectator.

Mr. Gillies is Executive Director of the Ontario Construction Consortium and a Senior Associate at Enterprise, a national public affairs firm based in Toronto.

Michelle Saunders
Vice President, Provincial Affairs and Sustainability
Food & Consumer Products of Canada

Michelle Saunders is the Vice-President of Provincial Affairs and Sustainability at Food & Consumer Products of Canada.  With more than 15 years offering strategic government relations guidance to the business community, and on-the ground advocacy at all levels of government, Michelle brings with her a unique perspective on advocacy which builds on her background in politics.  Prior to her work in trade associations she spent five years at Queen’s Park, in the offices of a number of Cabinet Ministers and the office of the Premier.  Michelle is on numerous Boards of Directors and is an active volunteer, providing pro bono government relations and advocacy advice to disability and accessibility organizations.

Tejal N. Shah
Chief of Political and Economic Affairs
U.S. Consulate General Toronto

Tejal N. Shahis the Political-Economic Chief at the Consulate General in Toronto.  As an economic-coned officer with the State Department, she has over 16 years of experience working on the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and international organizations.  Previously, Tejal served in Washington as a Program Officer for Refugee Admissions to the United States from Europe and the Middle East; an advisor to the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation; a Special Assistant to the State Department’s Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment supporting the G7 and Middle East economic engagement; the Senior Egypt Desk Officer; a Legislative Fellow to former Colorado Senator Udall; and an energy officer for the International Energy Agency and Asia region.  She has served overseas in Bangkok (consular and cultural affairs officer) and New Delhi (economic officer).

Tejal holds an MA in International Relations and Development and Transition Economics from the Johns Hopkins University.  She is proficient in Indonesian, Thai, Spanish, Hindi, and Gujarati languages.  A native of Dallas-Fort Worth, her parents and siblings reside in the north Texas area.

Jennifer Tidmarsh
NextEra Energy Transmission – Canada

Jennifer Tidmarsh is the President, Transmission – Canada for NextEra Energy Transmission.  Jennifer also works as the Project Director of NextBridge Infrastructure, which has been chosen by the Ontario Energy Board to construct the East West Tie transmission project in Northern Ontario. Before joining NextEra, Jennifer was the Director of First Nations and Métis Relations at the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) – now the Independent Electricity System Operator.  She has also worked in the industrial/commercial sector promoting energy efficient and environmentally sustainable programs.  Her work has included a short appointment in Bangladesh working for the Canadian International Development Agency.

Jim Williamson
Senior Manager, External Affairs – Ontario
Takeda Canada

Jim has worked 18 years in the innovative biopharmaceutical sector with the last 12 focused in government and stakeholder relations, market access and health policy. Prior to joining Takeda Canada in 2006, Jim spent 10 years at Pfizer Canada. Before joining the pharmaceutical industry, Jim served as a senior political staffer in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and in a number of management roles in the Ministry of Community and Social Services and Regional Municipality of Niagara.

When not at work or somewhere on the QEW between Toronto and Niagara, Jim can usually be found on his bike, at the gym or on the rink playing a high level of beer league hockey!


5:00pm – 5:30pm Registration and Networking

5:30pm – 5:40pm Opening comments and introductions

5:00pm – 7:00pm Short discussions will be conducted on a rotational basis

7:00pm – 7:45pm Closing comments and continued networking

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