Cumberland helps clients understand the contours of different jurisdictions and competing political agendas and build positive relationships with all levels of government – including federal, provincial, municipal, and First Nations.
Cumberland Strategies is a leading public affairs, government relations and strategic communications firm with decades of experience advising Canadian and multinational blue-chip corporations. Led by some of the country’s brightest public affairs minds, Cumberland brings intelligent strategic thinking to every project and campaign, ensuring successful outcomes for clients.
We leverage our experience to gather insights from all levels of government to shape outcomes and produce results for many and varied clients in a variety of sectors including healthcare, manufacturing, waste management, technology, mining, agriculture, transportation, infrastructure, film & entertainment, land development and the not-for profit sector.
A great team is always greater than the sum of its parts and at Cumberland Strategies we exemplify that truism. With decades of experience navigating government, crafting and executing strategic communications plans and driving public affairs campaigns, the Cumberland Strategies team brings experience, superior political judgement and creativity to every challenge. That is why clients consistently and repeatedly rely on us to meet their corporate objectives.
Bliss is the founder of Cumberland Strategies. Over the past 27 years, he has been an innovator, practitioner and commentator in the Public Affairs arena both domestically and internationally. He has been an advisor to two Prime Ministers, Ministers, Members of Parliament and Cabinet.
Bliss’ private sector experience includes Senior Executive roles in the banking and renewables industry and the pipeline industry. As a former Board Member of the Sierra Club, Bliss has had a lifelong passion for promoting public policies that protect the environment. Bliss was a senior advisor to several elected officials including Chief of Staff to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. His clients include a variety of tech companies, energy related companies, financial services, agriculture, manufacturing, clean technology providers, healthcare stakeholders and infrastructure related firms.
Bliss completed his undergraduate degrees in Political Science and Economics in Canada and his post-graduate degree at the London School of Economics in 1992 and is the founder of Cumberland Strategies.
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Giancarlo offers clients over a decade of government relations, public affairs and communications experience that spans both the public and private sectors. Politically he has worked at both the municipal and provincial level at Toronto City Hall as an advisor to a City of Toronto Councillor and then at Queens Park as a Stakeholder Relations and Communications Advisor to the Attorney General of Ontario. In government, Giancarlo dealt with various municipal matters, managed the relationships with non-profit stakeholders, the regulation of professional organizations and helped to navigate sensitive high-profile issues.
In 2010 he left Queens Park to join Bentham & Associates, a predecessor to Cumberland Strategies, and has since represented a number of sectors, particularly environmental, natural resource, trade association, infrastructure and technology clients. Giancarlo has an extensive knowledge of research, strategic communications, regulatory affairs, the government decision-making process and has been a part of a number of federal, provincial and municipal campaigns.
Prior to working in government, Giancarlo gained experience and knowledge of the importance of customer service and finance while working in the banking sector. Giancarlo has an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Toronto and is a graduate of St. Michael’s College School.
After earning a Bachelor of Arts from Carleton University, Jon worked as a Special Assistant to a Member of Parliament in Ottawa. His duties included speech writing, research for the MP’s committee, strategy and other responsibilities.
Feeling the need to grow his knowledge and skills, he then traveled to the United Kingdom in 2011 in order to complete his Master’s of Science in Politics & International Relations at the University of London. After graduating in 2012 with honors, Jon returned to Toronto to begin consulting. Since then Jon has supported files in healthcare, environment, economic development, technology and innovation and First Nations communities and organizations at both the provincial and federal levels. Jon has also studied and contributed to local civil society capacity building in Rwanda.
Through his past work Jon came to the realization that certain organizations were underserved by consultants, the desire to ensure those organizations could access a consultant lead Jon to found Common Ground Consulting before joining Cumberland Strategies. As an independent consultant, Jon has managed several files including the political strategy and government relations aspects of a campaign to end child poverty in Canada. Always feeling the need to serve the community at large Jon has been a board member and political strategist as a volunteer at the Jewish Refugee Action Network (JRAN) and through his role been published in the Montreal Gazette as well as the Huffington Post Canada.
Carys is a proven public policy and communications professional. Before joining Cumberland Strategies, she worked for the Ontario Government at Queen’s Park where she worked for two Ministers of Energy, dealing with various stakeholders, ranging from power generators and large consumers to professional organizations. Throughout this experience and while being involved in numerous provincial and federal campaigns, Carys has gained an intimate understanding of the legislative and political decision-making process.
With a passion for helping local communities, Carys currently sits on the St. Michael’s Hospital Youth Leaders Board in Toronto in addition to other causes she is involved in.
Prior to working in government, after graduating from Neuchatel Junior College in Switzerland, Carys completed her Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from New York University and the University of Toronto.
Born and raised in New Brunswick, Mackenzie is well-versed in legislative affairs, strategic communications, and stakeholder relations. She has held various positions in different jurisdictions, including the Ontario Government, the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick, the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission and the University of Toronto Press.
After being selected to participate in the Ontario Legislative Internship program, Mackenzie went on to work for the Ontario Ombudsman, focusing on municipal policy. She has served as Senior Advisor to the Ontario Government House Leader, and had roles in the Ministry of Economic Development and Job Creation, and most recently the Ministry of Colleges and Universities.
Mackenzie is known for her comprehensive knowledge of the legislative process and sound communications strategies that give her the ability to tackle issues with the support of a variety of stakeholders. Mackenzie has proven writing skills – recognized as a recipient of the Louis Robichaud Award for Best Essay in Canadian Politics and the William Vaughn Prize for Best Essay in Legal Studies. This is in addition to being an accomplished public speaker – representing the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association at the national level.
In addition to her work in politics, Mackenzie serves on the board of the Loran Foundation, the Program Advisory Committee for DemocracyxChange at Ryerson University, and is a volunteer for the Distress Centres of Greater Toronto. Mackenzie holds a Bachelor’s Degree from St. Thomas University in Political Science and French certifications from Université Laval and Université de Montréal.
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Derek is a seasoned political advisor, campaigner and organizer who has built a broad national network during his time in politics. He is action-oriented and brings over ten years of experience in the political arena recruiting candidates, running campaigns, advising numerous elected officials and managing sensitive and high profile political issues.
Prior to joining Cumberland Strategies, he spent over a decade working at both the Federal and Provincial government level as a political advisor to Ministers, Members of Parliament, the Premier of Ontario and the Prime Minister.
In that time, he gained significant experience managing politically charged issues, public policy development, coalition building and candidate training.
During his time in federal politics, Derek played a senior role in two national election campaigns that resulted in back to back victories for the Liberal Party.
He has played a senior role on dozens of municipal, provincial, and federal campaigns over the last 15 years. This has enabled him to build an extensive national network and a deep understanding of key issues facing the country today.
Derek holds a BA and MA in History from Trent University where he was also a Teaching Assistant prior to entering the world of politics.
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Vienna brings superior project management and public policy expertise to the Cumberland Strategies team. She developed these skills as Chief Executive Officer of the NATO Research Group at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and as a compliance analyst for the G20 Research Group.
In these previous roles, Vienna also gained a strong understanding of global governance and Canadian foreign policy, particularly the global fiscal policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. She is currently completing her Bachelor of Arts and Science degree in Political Science and Urban Development at the University of Toronto.
Vienna is a nationally ranked soccer player, playing as a member of the U of T varsity team. Her passion for the game extends beyond the field as she works with the governing body and several clubs across Canada to promote female youth empowerment and leadership.
Robert has been keenly engaged in politics since high school. Prior to joining Cumberland Strategies, Robert worked in the Toronto Mayor’s Office as well as MP Chrystia Freeland’s Office. Through these roles, he learned the impact of strong public policy and the value of effective communication.
Robert began volunteering on political campaigns in Grade 12, when he volunteered for his local MP. He has carried on with his political engagement throughout university, where he became more involved in his local community – joining the Rotaract Club and working on key community issues. Robert recently completed his BA in Philosophy from Western University.
Sabina possesses significant public policy experience having worked at both Provincial and Federal levels of government. Her areas of special interest include mining and the electric vehicle value chain, in addition to the energy and environmental sectors. Prior to joining Cumberland Strategies, she worked as a policy analyst for the federal government on economic-based national security files and for the Ontario government on consumer protection policy.
Sabina is a graduate of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, where she earned a Master of Public Policy degree in 2022. Throughout her time at Munk, Sabina gained an intimate understanding of the policy process, decision-making, regulatory processes, and economics. She also holds an Honours Specialization in Sociology from Western University. Being from Amherstburg, from auto to agriculture, she grew up seeing the diverse sectors that make up this Province.
Paul Sparkes is an accomplished business leader and entrepreneur with over twenty-five years of experience in public affairs, media, Venture Capital, finance, capital markets and Canada’s political arena.
He is currently President of Otterbury holdings Inc and is a corporate director, advisor and deal maker for growth companies in the public and private markets. Previously, Sparkes co-founded Difference Capital Financial, a TSX-listed specialty finance company that invests in media, technology, health care and U.S. real estate.
Paul spent a decade as a leader in the broadcast and media industry as Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs for CTVglobemedia (now Bellmedia), where he had oversight for corporate matters including strategy, regulatory, public and government affairs, communications, corporate social responsibility, as well as all sponsorship for CTVglobemedia Inc., and its divisions, including 27 conventional TV stations, 29 specialty and pay TV channels, 34 radio stations, The Globe and Mail, and Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium.
Over the course of his decade long tenure at CTVglobemedia, Sparkes led the development and implementation of successful public affairs strategies and major campaigns in support of corporate, board and regulatory priorities over transitions including changes in shareholder ownership structure as well as corporate acquisitions and divestitures.
Prior to joining Bell Globemedia in 2001 as Group Vice-President, Public Affairs, Sparkes held senior positions in the public service, including with the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. From 1996 to 2001, he served in the Office of the Prime Minister as Director of Operations, and Special Assistant for Atlantic Canada. Sparkes also served as Executive Assistant to two Premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Sparkes sits on several public and private boards in Canada the US and Europe, He is also the Chairman and Founding Member of the Smiling Land Foundation.
As a past member of the OneXOne board, Sparkes led the implementation of the First Nations School Breakfast Program providing healthy food for Aboriginal children in remote communities. He also served eight years on the board of the Animal Planet Digital Channel , four years as President of the CHUM Charitable Foundation , four years on the board of the LCBO and is a past board member of the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association and the National Arts Center Foundation.
Sparkes is a recipient of the Commemorative Medal for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. He was an Olympic Flame Torchbearer for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Educated in Quebec and Newfoundland, Sparkes holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Memorial University. He has been recognized as among the 100 Top Lobbyists in Canada.
Ava Hill was born on the Six Nations Reserve and is a Mohawk, Wolf Clan. Ava was the Elected Chief of the 56th and 57th Six Nations Elected Council. Prior to holding the Office of Elected Chief, Ava was a Councillor for District Two for three terms, a total of nine years. After serving for fifteen years as a member of the Six Nations Elected Council, Ava did not seek re-election in the last Six Nations General Election which was held on November 9th, 2019.
Ava has extensive experience working with First Nations and Indigenous organizations (regionally, nationally and locally) in both a volunteer and professional capacity. She served as the Executive Director of the Chiefs of Ontario Office, the Executive Assistant to the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and the Executive Assistant to the Co-Chair of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. She also spent some time in Saskatchewan working for the Wahpeton Dakota Nation and the Prince Albert Grand Council.
In addition to her duties as a Councillor, Ava worked as a private consultant who specialized in event planning/conference co-ordination, facilitation, report writing and the organization of lobbies at Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill.
Ava has also dedicated many years as a volunteer for several agencies and committees both in major cities and in her home community.
During her tenure on the Six Nations Elected Council Ava sat on many of the internal and external committees. She was the Six Nations representative on the Aboriginal Leadership Partnership for the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games. She was Six Nations representative with the Iroquois Caucus and has been active on international files attending the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for the past few years. She also participated in the Global Preparatory Meeting, which was held in Alta, Norway, in preparation for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples that was held in New York City in 2014.
Ava represented Six Nations on the Chiefs of Ontario Political Confederacy from November 2013 to November 2019. While in that position, she was also a member of the Chiefs of Ontario Wealth Creation Committee, Energy Committee and the Chiefs Committee on Housing. She represented the Chiefs of Ontario on the Ontario Provincial Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion up until June 2018.
Ava is a former member of Diverse onBoard, which was a program at The Change School at Ryerson University, and is currently a member of the Board of Governors at the University of Waterloo and a Board member of the National Consortium for Indigenous Economic Development with the University of Victoria. She is a member of the Advisory Council for Victoria Forum 2020, an International Forum being held at the University of Victoria in November 2020.
Over the course of his professional career, Nathan Wright has focused on supporting elected leadership in the area of executive management, policy coordination and political strategy for indigenous communities and organizations.
He has worked with and led a number of dedicated professionals who advocate on behalf of the Indigenous Nations within Ontario. Over the years he has been honored to represent Indigenous peoples in varies public forums and gained valuable knowledge and experience in advancing First Nation priorities.
Nathan’s key accomplishments include establishing the first Assembly of First Nation Yukon Regional Office, including an operating budget and governance model; structuring the unique negotiation process which led to First Nations in Ontario acquiring 2.5% shares of Hydro One Inc.; developing and implementing indigenous led advocacy strategies which resulted in changes to public policy, including the Safer Ontario Act, Ontario Resource Revenue Sharing policies and Ontario’s Archaeological policies as they relate to Indigenous peoples.
Jeff Passmore has worked in the renewable energy, renewable chemicals, and industrial bio-economy sectors for over 40 years, both as a consultant, and, for 12 years, as Executive Vice President of Iogen Corporation, an advanced biofuels production company. His expertise includes strategic investor relations, project capital attraction, site location assessment – including feedstock availability and cost, and corporate communications. He was a key player at the table in negotiated investments by Shell, Petro Canada, Goldman Sachs, and VW. He led a team of four professionals that succeeded in getting Canadian Renewable and Conservation Expenses (CRCE) embedded in the federal tax act in 1996, and was instrumental in the creation of the NextGen Biofuels Fund at Sustainable Development Technology Canada in federal Budget 2007.
In 2010, he launched the Passmore Group Inc., a management consultancy focused on providing clients with the necessary tools to lead to the more rapid commercialization and deployment of technologies in the bio-economy and cleantech sectors. His area of concentration has been on attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) to Canada targeting primarily US and EU companies. He has raised non-dilutive subordinated debt for a number of offshore companies seeking to establish businesses in Canada.
In 2016 Passmore launched and now Chairs Canada’s inaugural annual Industrial Bioeconomy Business Conference “Scaling Up” focussing on the financing and commercialization challenges faced by biochemical, bioenergy, and advanced biofuels technology providers.
For more information visit the Passmore Group website at www.passmoregroup.ca
Mimi Lowi-Young M.H.A., LFACHE, FCCHL has nearly 40 years experience as an Executive Health Care Leader, with expertise spanning the acute care sector, continuing care sector, and community health and health charities. She has also served as a health systems strategic advisor.
Currently, she is the chair of the board of directors of AGE-WELL Network Centre of Excellence INC. and is actively involved with the Institute of Health Policy and Evaluation at the University of Toronto and a number of Not-for-Profit organizations.
Mimi joined the Alzheimer Society of Canada in December 2012 as Chief Executive Officer until June, 2016.
She has also held a number of interim CEO positions, including at Food Banks Canada. She was the Inaugural CEO of the Central West Local Health Integration Network in Ontario.
Mimi has had extensive knowledge and experience as a Board Member on many health care and health charity boards including IABs at CIHR.
She is a recipient of the ‘Tony Graham Award’ for Excellence in Board Service at the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Dean’s Philos Award, presented by the University of Ottawa. She is a recipient of the Chairman’s Award for Distinguished Services from the Canadian College of Health Leaders and the Regent-At-Large Award and the Regent’s Award from the American College of Health Executives.
Mimi holds a B.Sc. in Physical Therapy from McGill University, a Masters in Health Administration and a Diploma in Business Administration from the University of Ottawa. She is a Life Fellow of both the Canadian College of Health Leaders and the American College of Healthcare Executives. She has published many articles on quality and health systems transformation.
Larry has decades of service in the fields of education, municipal governance, and the non-profit a well as for-profit sectors. First elected as a Councillor for the City of Stoney Creek, Larry later became a Councillor for the amalgamated City of Hamilton and served as Mayor from 2003-2006. His nearly 25 years of political experience serve him well in his current interests.
As mayor Larry championed the construction of a major roadway infrastructure for the city which had been debated for decades, and set up a poverty roundtable to address issues of housing and homelessness for needy citizens.
Larry also has extensive background in education having risen (and retired from) the position of secondary school principal with a local large school board.
Larry currently manages a Consulting service providing strategic advice and advocacy to large and medium-sized business interests from Ontario as well as the United States.
As well as his business interests, Larry is committed to the community and volunteers as Chair of a local Children’s Aid Agency, has been on the board of an anti-poverty initiative and currently hosts a weekly, politically-oriented television program in the Hamilton area.
Rick joined Cumberland Strategies in June 2014 as an outside advisor to the firm. Rick will provide the firm and its clients with outstanding advice based on an exemplary career with an unblemished record of public service. As an elected official Rick served as a Minister in the McGuinty government for over 10 years and served as Chair of Cabinet for three years between 2010-2013.
Rick Bartolucci was re-elected into the riding of Sudbury in 2011 for a fifth consecutive term, and has served as Minister of Northern Development and Mines and Chair of Cabinet since 2011 until the recent provincial election. Bartolucci first served as MNDM Minister from 2003 to 2007. During that time he initiated an overhaul of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund to focus on job creation for northerners.
As Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing from 2010-2011, Bartolucci introduced Ontario’s first-ever Affordable Housing Strategy, and passed supporting legislation that received all-party endorsement in the Legislature. Bartolucci served as Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services from 2007 to 2011, during which time he oversaw the revamping of Ontario’s death investigation system to ensure stronger accountability to Ontarians. Also during his tenure at MCSCS, the strongest animal welfare legislation in the country, the Provincial Animal Welfare (PAW) Act, became law.
Prior to entering provincial politics, Bartolucci served at the municipal level as Sudbury’s deputy mayor and as chair of the City of Sudbury Budget Committee and Grievance Committee, and the Sudbury Regional Police Services Board’s Complaint Committee. He was an educator for 30 years.
Political Career Highlights:
MPP Sudbury, 1995 – June 2014
Chair of Cabinet 2011-2014
Minister of Northern Development and Mines 2011-2014
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, 2010–2011
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, 2007 – 2010
Minister of Northern Development and Mines, 2003 – 2007,
Municipal Politics: Ward Councillor, Deputy Mayor, Sudbury, Chair of Police Services Board
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