About Us

About The Government Relations Office

The University of Toronto Government Relations Office works to build understanding of the positive impact of our University with government, private sector and community stakeholders. We support the efforts of government to develop solutions to public policy challenges by providing valuable advice and expertise. Our office is also a resource for the University community, providing advice on how to engage with all levels of government.

GRO is organized into three units: Government Relations and Public Policy, University Relations, and Stakeholder Engagement and Strategic Initiatives. Across our units, the goal is to ensure that governments recognize and support the unique role played by the University of Toronto in civic, provincial, and national capacity-building.

Our office works on the University’s three campuses to build relationships with political representatives across the GTA.

In addition, we collaborate with key private and non-profit sector organizations including the Toronto Region Board of Trade, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Public Policy Forum and the C.D.Howe Institute.

Meet The Team

Andrew Thomson

Andrew Thomson

Chief of Government Relations

Andrew Thomson is the University’s Chief of Government Relations and serves on the President’s senior leadership team. As chief advocate to federal, provincial, and municipal governments, he helps drive the University’s public policy agenda. This includes a focus on community and economic development; strengthening public funding for comprehensive and globally recognized, research-intensive programs; and knowledge transfer strategies to support entrepreneurship and job creation.

Andrew’s executive experience, in both public and private sectors, has focused extensively on issues of economic and human capital development. With more than a decade in elected office, and experience serving in senior Cabinet roles — including as Saskatchewan’s Minister of Finance and Minister of Learning — he has a deep understanding of government policy. As an executive with Cisco Systems, based in Toronto and subsequently the Asia Pacific region, he led public sector initiatives focused on creating new partnership and business models within the higher education sector across OECD and emerging markets.

Andrew holds a Bachelor of Arts (1990) from the University of Saskatchewan and is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002) for his service to the community.

To get in touch with Andrew, please contact Stephanie Michelle, Administrative Coordinator and EA, Government Relations Office, through the U of T directory: https://directory.utoronto.ca/

Alex Irving

Alex Irving

Divisional Lead, Advocacy and Tri-Campus Priorities

Alex brings more than six years of experience as an advisor to a number of cabinet ministers in the Government of Ontario, including the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and most recently, the Minister of Economic Development and Growth. Previously, Alex held positions at OMERS pension plan and the City of Toronto. He has also been the owner and operator of a small business in Toronto. He holds a Master’s Degree in Political Studies from Queen’s University where he also completed his Bachelor’s (Honours) Degree in Political Studies and Sociology.

Catrina Kronfli

Catrina Kronfli

Senior Policy Advisor, Institutional Strategic Initiatives

Catrina is responsible for supporting the University of Toronto’s (UofT) Institutional Strategic Initiatives and the university’s ability to conduct high-impact interdisciplinary research. Prior to joining GRO, she led a range of policy files at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, managed the policy and government relations activities at the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, and spearheaded the research for a provincial strategy at the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. Catrina holds a BA and MA from the UofT, as well as a MA from Ryerson University.

Forrest Parlee

Executive Director, Government Relations & Public Affairs

Forrest’s work focuses on advancing the public policy interests of the University with governments at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. Previously, Forrest was Vice President, National Partnerships at Mitacs, Director of Public Affairs at a global e-commerce organization, and served as a political advisor to Cabinet Ministers at the provincial and federal levels. Forrest holds a BA and MA from Simon Fraser University.

Mark Maloney

Mark Maloney

Municipal Affairs Advisor

Mark both monitors and advises on municipal relations issues involving the City of Toronto and its elected officials and staff, as well as City agencies, boards, and commissions. Mark has worked as a senior staff member with two Mayors of Toronto: Barbara Hall and Mel Lastman, where he served as the Coordinator of Research, Community Outreach & Special Projects. He has worked as a public affairs professional with two leading government relations firms, Urban Consulting and prior to that, with Urban Intelligence Ltd. where he coordinated in-depth municipal research projects across Canada. Mark’s prior career also included serving as a municipal affairs reporter with the CHUM Radio network, and on the assignment desk of CTV News in Ottawa, where he had also chaired the Regional government’s Board of Health and served as a City and Regional councillor.

Munira Tayabali

Munira Tayabali

Special Projects Officer

Munira supports a variety of strategic initiatives in the Government Relations Office including providing strategic support to the University’s membership in and engagement with post-secondary institutions. She supports U of T’s collaboration with the Council of Ontario Universities, U15, and Universities Canada. Munira is a double-graduate of U of T.

Rupinder Bhagha

Rupinder Bhagha

Senior Policy Advisor, Health and Life Sciences

Rupinder’s work focuses on advancing the University’s health and life sciences interests at all levels of government. She brings more than 5 years of experience as a policy professional in the health care sector. Previously, she held positions at the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health and the Ministry of Long-Term Care where she provided in-depth research and policy analysis on a variety of health policy matters. Rupinder holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and an Honors Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto.

Simona Chiose

Simona Chiose

Divisional Lead, Public Affairs

Simona advances the University’s public policy priorities in supporting talent, research, innovation and community impact. She leads development of communication and marketing strategies and content, and collaborates with a strong and growing network of external stakeholders in the private sector. Simona earned a PhD in political science from the University of Toronto (2017) and continues to teach in public policy and advocacy. Prior to her role in GRO, Simona’s career was in journalism where she has more than two decades of experience across digital and print platforms, including as senior editor and reporter at The Globe and Mail, Canadian Press, CityTV and other outlets.