Our People

Kimanda Jarzebiak

With over 23 years as a communications and government relations consultant, Kimanda leads Ascent’s public affairs practice. After holding positions in conflict resolution at the BC Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, and as an Assistant to a BC Member of Parliament, Kimanda joined a crisis communications consulting firm in 1994. Since then, she has provided communications and government relations assistance to a range of organizations, from international coalitions to provincial health care associations. She has a strong track-record of success, particularly working with non-corporate entities, such as the BC Cancer Foundation, the Law Society of BC, the City of Dawson Creek, Genome British Columbia, the Rick Hansen Institute, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, the Vancouver Prostate Centre, the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, and the BC Tech Association. 

An experienced campaign manager, with a 90 percent win record, she often instructs at the Canadian Women’s Voters Congress campaign school, a non-partisan effort to bring more women to public office. Through their auspices, she has provided mentorship to a number of newly-elected BC MLAs, from all parties. She has also been a guest lecturer in the University of Victoria’s Masters in Public Administration program, specifically related to the intersection of political imperatives and the public policy process.

In her spare time, Kimanda spends time travelling, exploring and teaching climbing. She is a certified climbing instructor, a member of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, and is the Chair and Director of Operations of the not-for-profit Boulders Climbing Gym. http://www.climbtheboulders.com

Michael Gardiner

Michael Gardiner is an Associate of Ascent Public Affairs, and the head of his own consulting firm (Gastown Strategy Group).

In this past year, his focus has been on Alberta public affairs,  working with Telus, Tolko, Anglo American Mines and the Canadian Association of Oil Drilling Companies, and LifeLabs. Projects have ranged from providing advice and strategy on procurement design and participation, to ongoing relationship building, to finding mutually beneficially outcomes for a client and the government of Alberta.

Michael was the lead architect and campaign director for John Horgan’s unopposed leadership bid. He then worked with Horgan as Executive Director of the BC NDP for two years, where he put in place the leadership team that delivered the NDP’s success in the recent election, and recruited many of the successful candidates. Michael also recently served as war room director for Tom Mulcair in the recent federal election, building relationships with New Democrats across Canada. Michael previously served as communications director for Carole James leadership campaign, and was her lead writer in the 2005 campaign.

Michael has also worked as a partner in a boutique advertising firm, and as the Vice-President Marketing of a life safety technology startup, where he lobbied extensively in Washington, DC. Michael’s experience and background have him uniquely positioned to understand business and organizational needs in the government relations environment, and to understand how New Democrats think.

Jason Keenan

Jason Keenan is an Associate of Ascent Public Affairs, and the head of his own communications strategy company, Audience Public Affairs.

He has developed and implemented communications strategies for the provincial government, in the Office of the British Columbia Premier, for a global non-profit in the technology sector, and with a business industry association. The projects he has developed and overseen run the complete gamut of public affairs and communications – crisis communications, leadership, media relations, social media, issues management, strategic planning, and writing.

Along the way he’s delivered new approaches to stakeholder relations, revamped member communications, and brought an intensely pro-active approaches to getting key stories across to key audiences.

In all instances, it’s always about the story. It’s about building a narrative that connects with the audience on their terms, and brings them the story you want them to hear. Without a story, you end up with a lot of facts and words – often on a hard to read PowerPoint.

Jason started storytelling as an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor in B.C. and Alberta. He also blogs on topics like cross-cultural comparisons, book reviews, and pursing minimalist lifestyles.

Eden Toth

A bilingual graduate of both Queen’s University and Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Eden Toth is the latest addition to the Ascent team. She has a varied background in special event production and communication design and has worked in creative capacities for several not-for-profits, as well as the City of Vancouver and TED talks. Her most recent venture is a tech start-up that makes language programming more affordable for small Indigenous communities. 

When not on the phone with Kimanda, she can be found sitting in the nosebleeds at the symphony, throwing stones at the local rink, or zipping across Active Pass in a ’78 Hourston glascraft to her home on Galiano Island.