Springtide is a non-profit, non-partisan charity and social enterprise. Our board, staff, volunteers, collaborators and advisors include young professionals, engaged community leaders, former political staffers and politicians, and citizens of Nova Scotia who love democracy and think it can be done better.

Springtide Team: Staff & Project Leads

Mark Coffin - Executive Director & Founder @ Springtide Collective

Mark_Edit.jpgMark is a marine biologist by training, an entrepreneur by necessity, and an educator by calling. He is a Cape Bretoner at heart, a Haligonian for the last ten years, and is currently plotting an escape to rural Nova Scotia. His interest in politics and democracy stems from an earlier passion for environmental protection and social justice, and a belief that source and solution of our environmental and social problems is political, and tied to the success or failure our democratic systems.

Mark is interested in exploring how large groups and communities can be making better decisions together. For the past four years, he’s been the Executive Director of the Springtide Collective, an organization he and others launched in 2012 to improve the quality of political engagement in Nova Scotia through education and research. 

From 2009 – 2012 Mark served as the Executive Director of the organization that is now called Students Nova Scotia (previously, ANSSA). Mark also serves on the boards of Credit Union Atlantic and Engage Nova Scotia. | @MarkCoffin | Connect on LinkedIn  902.989.3668 ext. 102 


Louise Cockram – Research Lead for the OffScript Project @ Springtide Collective 


Louise is a long-time collaborator with Springtide. She brings a background in qualitative research to her role as content and research lead on the Off-Script project. Louise first became involved with Springtide as she believes that strong legislative institutions are important to democratic life in Nova Scotia (and beyond!) 

Louise is currently a PhD student in the political science program at Carleton University. However she made Nova Scotia her home for several years and graduated with an MA in political science from Dalhousie in 2014. | Connect on LinkedIn


Sandra Hannebohm - Content Developer and Writer @ Springtide Collective

Sandra.pngSandra began working with Springtide as a volunteer, then as a summer student intern, and now as a co-writer and co-host of the Off Script podcast.

She has recently finished her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and French at Saint Mary’s University, and was inspired during her position as Editor-in-Chief of The Journal at Saint Mary’s to become more engaged in local politics and begin volunteering. She hopes to enter into data journalism at the University of King’s College after completing her Bachelor degree. | Connect on LinkedIn

Springtide Team: Board of Directors

Lisa Buchanan: Springtide Board Chair / Development Research Officer @ United Way of Halifax Region 


Lisa grew up in Sydney, Nova Scotia. She holds degrees in political science and law from Dalhousie University, as well as a Master’s of English from the University of Saskatchewan. Lisa is passionate about community leadership and policy development. She is a former chair of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP) and former councillor of the Dalhousie Student Union (DSU).

At the DSU, Lisa played a key role in large-scale reform of the union’s election and referendum rules, and governance structure.  She has also been a campaign volunteer during federal, provincial, and municipal elections.

Most democratic thing she’s ever done: Re-drafted the Dalhousie Student Union’s election rules.

Least democratic thing she’s ever done: Scheduled a meeting without using a Doodle poll.


Ryan MacLeod: Springtide Board Treasurer / Economist @ Nova Scotia Department of Finance and Treasury Board


Originally from Sydney, Nova Scotia, Ryan has lived and studied in three difference provinces. With an M.A. in Economics from Queen’s, he has worked for the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, the Halifax Partnership, and now for the Nova Scotia Department and Treasury Board studying the provincial economy. Through his work, Ryan has seen that solid public engagement is key to developing effective policy, in matters of economy and everything else.

Most democratic thing he’s ever done: Intentionally spoiled his ballot in a provincial election.

Least democratic thing he’s ever done: Intentionally spoiled his ballot in a provincial election.


 Sarah Simpson: Springtide Board Member & Better Politics Awards Committee Chair / Consultant @ National Public Relations


A proud Prince Edward Island native, Sarah has done her fair share of exploring. She has lived in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. Her love of communication, community and oysters led her back to the East Coast. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Prince Edward Island and an Advanced Diploma in Public Relations from the Nova Scotia Community College. Sarah grew up in a political house and has a longstanding passion for democratic processes. Sarah currently works at NATIONAL Public Relations and has volunteered with the Halifax International Security Forum, the Association for Fundraising Professionals and the International Association of Business Communicators.

Most democratic thing she has ever done: Joined Springtide

Least democratic thing she has ever done: Convinced her little brother he could never have shotgun because she was older than him.


 Lucy Hulford: Board Vice-Chair / (Governance Officer) @ United Way Halifax 


Lucy grew up in West Vancouver, British Columbia and came to Halifax in 2009 to complete her undergraduate degree in Criminology and English at Saint Mary’s University. After becoming involved in the residence and campus community, Lucy fell in love with Halifax and decided to stay and complete her Master of Public Administration at Dalhousie University. Lucy was recently the Vice-Chair and Chair of Programming for the 2015 Atlantic Conference on Public Administration and previously worked for the Department of National Defence. Lucy views democratic practice and involvement as an avenue for strong community engagement.

Most democratic thing she has ever done: Been elected to student government.

Least democratic thing she has ever done: She has a tendency to dictate the restaurant or bar when going out with friends.


Joshua Bates: Board Member / Senior Advisor to the Mayor @ Halifax Regional Municipality

josh_bates.jpgJoshua has advised key decision makers in federal, provincial and municipal government. His passion is local government, and in his current role he works with residents, community groups and government to make Halifax a more inclusive, accessible and active community. He previously worked in the Minister’s Office in both the Finance and Health portfolios with the Government of Nova Scotia, on many of the key challenges facing provincial government. Before working with the provincial government, he worked for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, helping to build strong, sustainable communities by influencing federal policies and programs affecting municipalities. 

Most democratic thing he's ever done: published an op-ed, which made the case for permanent residents to have the right to vote in municipal elections

Least democratic thing he's ever done: Hogs the remote control when in front of a TV


Katie Smith: Board Member / Audit Manager @ Province of Nova Scotia 

1afbb20.jpgKatie grew up moving around the states but spent every summer in Nova Scotia. She made the province when she moved to Antigonish to earn her BA in Political Science and Modern Languages at St. Francis Xavier University. Katie later moved to Halifax to earn her Master of Public Administration at Dalhousie University. She continues to channel her inner government nerd and works for the Province of Nova Scotia as an Audit Manager.

Outside of work, Katie enjoys sports, yoga, walks with her goofy Labrador Retriever and cultivating her latest passion for hobby-farming.

Most democratic thing she's ever done: Elected as her fourth grade Student Council Treasurer.

Least democratic thing she's ever done: Opened a present out of turn at family Christmas.


Lachlan MacKinnon: Board Member / Post-Doctoral Fellow @ Saint Mary's University


Lachlan grew up in Sydney, Nova Scotia. He completed his PhD at Concordia University in Montreal, and has since returned to Nova Scotia to work on a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Saint Mary's University in Halifax. His research interests include the international labour movement, oral history, and Canadian regionalism. Lachlan is committed to building a more democratic society, and is especially committed to the democratization of the Canadian workplace.

Most democratic thing he's ever done: 'Sharing authority' with dozens of oral history interviewees.

Least democratic thing he's ever done: Parenting.

Springtide Team: Advisory Council

 Graham Steele, Former MLA and Finance Minister, Author: “What I learned about politics”


Graham Steele was a member of the Nova Scotia legislature from 2001 to 2013. He was the minister of finance and minister of Acadian affairs (2009–2012) and minister of economic and rural development and tourism (2013) in the NDP government. He is the author of the best-selling book ”What I learned about politics”. Before entering politics, Graham was a lawyer in private practice and in government. He is a Rhodes Scholar and originally from Winnipeg. He lives in Halifax.

From Graham: “In my book, I offered an insider’s look at how politics really works.  The problems are obvious, but the solutions aren’t. We need groups like Springtide to galvanize the public conversation and change the political culture.”


Alison Loat, co-founder and former executive director of Samara.


Alison is the founder of Samara, a non-partisan charitable organization that improves political participation in Canada through research and educational activities. She is the author the #1 best-selling book Tragedy in the Commons: Former Members of Parliament Speak Out About Canada’s Failing Democracy, published by Random House Canada in 2014.

Alison is also a fellow and instructor at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance and a past president of the Canadian Club of Toronto. She has worked at McKinsey & Company, the Government of Canada, the MaRS Discovery District and was a founder of Canada25.

From Alison: “Samara and Springtide share similar goals and are animated by the same spirit and belief in the importance of public service and leadership.”


Danny Graham, Chief Engagement Officer at Engage Nova Scotia

danny.jpgDanny Graham is best known as the former MLA for Halifax Citadel and Leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party. Over a 25 year period he has held senior positions in business, law, government and politics. Since leaving politics he has been the Founding Chair of organizations that are igniting a culture of civic engagement in Nova Scotia – most recently, Engage Nova Scotia.

From Danny: ”The work of the Springtide Collective represents the best hope for reforming politics in Nova Scotia. Through a fresh style of leadership, this work models the path forward – engaging citizens in deep dialogue about what’s working and what needs to change.”   


Patricia Bradshaw, PhD, Dean, Sobey School of Business 


Pat Bradshaw is the Dean of the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University and a Professor of Management. Pat’s research includes the study of organizational power and politics and governance of non-profit organizations. She has consulted with numerous nonprofits and her consulting projects include governance workshops, strategic planning, team building for boards and staff and training programs on change management and critical thinking skills. She is the Chair of the board of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs.

From Patricia: “Springtide brings an essential perspective to the community dialogues that are taking place across the province. With their unique approach and stance they can ensure that critical questions about democracy and public engagement do not get lost in our drive for economic prosperity.”


Elizabeth Beale, (Retired) President and CEO of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC)


Elizabeth Beale is President and CEO of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC), a position she has held since 1996. Prior to this, she worked for 10 years as a consulting economist and was APEC’s Chief Economist from 1981 to 1986. Ms. Beale’s policy and research interests include energy, labour market, and innovation strategies. Ms. Beale has authored numerous studies and is a frequent guest lecturer. She led an Atlantic research team on an OECD-IMHE project on higher education and regional development from 2005 to 2008 and was a member of the federal-provincial Labour Market Information Advisory Panel and the Nova Scotia Economic Advisory Panel in 2009.

From Elizabeth: “Springtide’s innovative approach is helping to introduce an understanding of government and policy issues to a new audience.”


Ian McNeil, Manager of the Cape Breton Prosperity Framework


Ian McNeil is the manager (since May 2013) of the Prosperity Framework, Cape Breton’s in-depth economic development strategy, which unites partners in the private sector, municipalities, First Nations, educational institutions, government departments and agencies on teams which meet quarterly to work on sector-specific projects.

Born in Port Hood and currently a resident of Baddeck, McNeil is a former journalist and broadcaster who launched a communications company, Ian McNeil Real Media, in 2007 to provide media training, facilitation and other communication services. He is active in the volunteer sector, mainly as a master of ceremonies, and is the author of a book about the legacy of Cape Breton’s coal miners, “Pit Talk.”

From Ian: “My interest in the work of Springtide is based in the belief that, for the sake of the health of our democracy, more people need to be engaged on a range of levels.”


Mike Smit, PhD, Professor of Information Management, Dalhousie University


Mike studies the intersection of people, information, and technology. This includes research challenges in using cloud computing, tool support for research dissemination and discovery, management of cloud-scale data, leveraging IT to meet research and educational needs, and enabling open data and data literacy.

At Springtide, Mike has served as an advisor on the website, which sorts information published in the Hansard – the verbatim record of the proceedings of the House of Assembly.