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Our Team
David Herle, LL.B.

Mr. Herle is a principal partner with The Gandalf Group. Mr. Herle has been a nationally recognized leader in public opinion research, strategic advice, and communications strategies for almost twenty years.

Currently, Mr. Herle is most active advising private sector clients about brand image and reputation management in virtually every sector of the economy.  He has helped Maple Leaf Foods with crisis management and brand recovery.  He has helped the nuclear industry catch the green wave and become an acceptable alternative.  He helped the Canadian Wheat Board rebrand itself and become more popular among farmers.  

For many years active in research and strategy for the public sector, Mr. Herle is probably best known in that regard for his work on nine consecutive federal budgets, all of which received very high public approval ratings. Most notable is 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.

Understanding the forces that drive the economy remains a major focus of Mr. Herle’s work. The Gandalf Group conducts the quarterly C Suite Survey featured in the Report on Business and Business News Network. It analyzes the views of Canada’s corporate leaders on challenges facing the economy and society. The Gandalf Group also produces, for the advertising agency Bensimon Byrne, the quarterly Consumerology Report. Consumerology looks at the big trends impacting on society and learns how those trends are impacting on consumer behavior and attitudes.

Herle was the national campaign chair for the Liberal Party in the 2004 and 2006 general elections as well as for the Leadership campaign of the Right Honourable Paul Martin in 2003. He is a frequent commentator about politics on the CBC National News, CBC News Network, and major newspapers in Canada, including the bi weekly appearance on the CBC National News as part of “The Insiders” panel.  He is a regular contributor to Business News Network and in the Globe and Mail Report on Business about business attitudes and behaviour.

Mr. Herle received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Regina, majoring in social sciences. He was called to the Bar in Ontario after receiving his LLB from the University of Saskatchewan. Mr. Herle is a member of the Market Research and Intelligence Association and the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

Mr. Herle is frequently a featured speaker at universities, conferences and annual meetings of associations on such topics as the environment, energy, economic policy, consumer and brandings issues, health care, crisis management, agriculture, democracy and politics.



Jennifer Espey, PhD

Ms. Espey is a principal partner with The Gandalf Group. Ms. Espey received her PhD at the University of New Mexico. She served at the Institute for Public Policy, University of New Mexico where she also taught political philosophy and methodology and statistics.

Ms. Espey has worked extensively to use research to help strategy development in a number of areas including aboriginal affairs and First Nations, Canadians with disabilities, youth and children, advanced technologies and health. Ms Espey worked with the Canadian Child Care Federation and the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada in their efforts to develop a national child care system. She also worked with the team tasked with the creation of the First Nations Statistics Institute to develop a public institution with the mandate to produce knowledge of First Nations people by First Nations people. She has served on national task forces to advise on how to use research to create effective policy, including : the Federal Task Force on Diversity in the Public Service and the Task Force of the Canadian Alliance for Children’s Healthcare.

In the public sector, Ms. Espey has worked with a number of federal ministries including the Department of Health, the Department of Environment, the Department of Heritage, the Department of Justice, Treasury Board, the Department of Industry, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs and Western Economic Diversification. Ms. Espey has been asked to write several papers by federal ministries on public consultation methodologies and the importance of knowledge production in producing fuller understandings of the social context within which all policies, communications and strategies must operate.

In the private sector, Ms. Espey has assisted NGOs and corporations in brand development, reputation management, and corporate social responsibility. She has worked in a number of areas including the environment, climate change, energy, health, advanced technologies, pharmaceuticals, biotechnologies, telecommunications and finances.

From December 2003 to December 2006, the Gandalf Group (or its predecessor Veraxis) served as the official public opinion research provider to the Liberal Party of Canada and its leader, the Right Honourable Paul Martin. Mr. Herle and Ms Espey were the lead researchers for the party during the 2004 and 2006 elections. Work during this period involved almost daily tracking of public opinion during the electoral cycle and the rapid analysis of significant national data for the party leader and Prime Minister. This research program combined qualitative and quantitative research to direct platform development, communications and advertising.

 

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

A principal with The Gandalf group, Silvia Presenza is a trusted advisor who provides corporate communications counsel with an emphasis on internal change management communications.  She has a proven record for the successful implementation of communication programs that generate buy-in across all levels of an organization and with external stakeholders.  Her work supports changes resulting from new business strategies, mergers and acquisitions, organizational/operational restructurings, CCAA/Chapter 11 filings, corporate values programs, and crises.  Her clients have included Maple Leaf Foods, CBC, Coca Cola, College of Early Childhood Educators, and the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. Ms Presenza began her career as a lawyer with a downtown Toronto law firm.  Thereafter, she became a political aide at the Ontario Legislature and went on to work at Hill and Knowlton, a global public affairs firm. In 2000 she established her own consulting firm. 

After being retained by an international financial institution, Banca Commerciale Italiana, to oversee a comprehensive repositioning effort, Silvia accepted the role of Vice President of Corporate Affairs.  During her tenure at the bank she oversaw all aspects of internal and external corporate communications.  She returned to private consulting in 2004.

Ms Presenza graduated with a B.A. in History/Political Science from Laurentian University and holds a law degree from the Faculty of Law, University of Windsor.  She was called to the Bar in Ontario and is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada.



Alexander Swann

Alex Swann brings fifteen years of experience in research, communications and public affairs to the Gandalf Group.  He has managed, designed and reported on numerous qualitative and quantitative research projects since joining the firm in 2007. He has moderated focus groups, conducted one-on-one interviews and provided reports and analysis on quantitative data for various projects and objectives including advertising testing, policy framing, communications/positioning, quarterly opinion tracking and customer satisfaction.

He has worked for a range of clients including those in Canada’s solar industry, health care, energy and electricity, the food and beverage industry, the private capital sector and for a major North American fund company. He is responsible for managing the quarterly C-Suite survey of ROB1000 executives, results of which are published and broadcast in the Globe and Mail and on BNN.

Prior to joining the Gandalf Group, Mr. Swann worked in government and politics, including as a communications advisor in the Minister’s office at the federal Department of Justice, Health Canada and Public Safety Canada and later as Director of Communications to the Deputy Prime Minister.  He was involved in issues management, crisis communications and day-to-day media relations involving different public policy questions, including public security, energy, criminal law reform, health care and health sector regulation.

Mr. Swann obtained a B.A. (1995) and M.A. (1996) from the University of Toronto. 

 

Daniel Oettl

Mr. Oettl is a consultant with The Gandalf Group with experience in public opinion research, and the Green Energy policy field.  Daniel has conducted client and issue research, project management, survey instrument design, supplier quality control, analysis and reporting on quantitative and qualitative projects since joining The Gandalf Group in May 2011.

Before obtaining his Master of Public Policy from the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto, Daniel was a research associate at a national public opinion research firm where he worked for health, philanthropy, energy, and environment sector clients.  Daniel interned with the Green Energy unit in Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment where he worked on external stakeholder communications as well as regulatory amendments.

Daniel was born in Toronto and lived in Berlin and South Carolina before attending McGill University for his BA in Political Science and History.  He speaks fluent German and English as well as some French.


Melissa Branco

Melissa brings over a decade of experience coordinating qualitative market research projects. She has worked both on the supplier side and with moderators ensuring quality control of respondents and coordinating logistics for focus groups.

Prior to joining The Gandalf Group, Melissa worked at Veritas Communications, a PR agency in Toronto, in the Corporate and Public Affairs division. She worked with various clients providing services such as media relations, writing materials, media coaching, coordinating events and crisis and issues management. Some of her clients included not for profit organizations such as Plan Canada, The Belinda Stronach Foundation and Special Olympics of Canada as well as the Ministry of Health, Ontario Electronic Stewardship, Church and Dwight and CBC.

Melissa graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications Studies and Linguistics from York University and holds a certificate in Public Relations from Ryerson University.



Jordan Owens

Jordan is a communications consultant and opinion researcher who has previously served as a communications aide to the federal Leader of the Official Opposition in Ottawa and has worked as an advisor on election campaigns at the federal, provincial and territorial, and local levels. As a researcher, she has conducted qualitative and quantitative studies, moderated focus groups, and provided strategic advice to clients in the health care, energy, infrastructure, education and philanthropic sectors.

Jordan’s professional interests include campaign communications, media relations, and issues involving Canada's North. Her writing about politics has been featured on Macleans.ca and iPolitics.ca.

She has a BA in Philosophy from McGill University.

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