Our History

Here we celebrate the past, present, and future of Counsel Public Affairs.

We began in 2004 with a team of four Toronto-based government relations professionals and have grown into one of Canada’s most respected public affairs agencies. Today, Counsel’s 40+ consultants are located across Canada and offer strategic communications services in addition to government and public relations services at all levels of government. We are proud to have an incredible team behind us and a strong plan for future succession and growth.


In 2003, Philip Dewan brought insights gained from his many years in provincial government, including as Chief of Staff to Dalton McGuinty for the prior four years, to establish The Excelsior Consulting Group Inc. That same year, Caroline Pinto and Charles Harnick brought their partnership from Charles’ time as Attorney General of Ontario and Minister Responsible for Native Affairs to their new GR practice, Suasion Public Affairs Management Inc.


On November 9, 2004, this powerhouse multi-partisan team came together to found Counsel Public Affairs.

They were joined by Counsel’s first Principal, former Minister of Community and Social Services and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs, Charles Beer.

Together, Counsel began to grow a thriving government relations practice that focused on ethical, multi-partisan partnerships with the goal of advancing good public policy. Within a year, Counsel’s client roster and track record had established them as a first-tier GR presence in Ontario.


In 2005, Counsel’s offerings expanded with the foundation of joint venture Counsel Public Relations, under the leadership of public relations specialist Dorenda McNeil. Counsel’s PR and GR offering became increasingly integrated, until Counsel PR was officially merged with Counsel PA. Counsel Public Affairs continues to offer a wide range of communications services, including our trademark “PR4GR” approach, which brings our public relations expertise to the advancement of public policy goals.


The team continued to grow, with the contribution of many talented public affairs professionals over the years. In 2008, veteran Liberal strategist and Senior Advisor to the Premier Bob Lopinski joined the firm as a Principal. He also brought his breadth of strategic and crisis communications experience to the leadership of Counsel’s growing Communications and Campaigns practice.


Counsel’s government relations offerings expanded into the Federal realm with the addition of Sheamus Murphy in 2015. A GR professional with a wide range of experience in federal and provincial government, consulting, and the private sector, Sheamus brought Counsel’s brand of hands-on, policy-based government relations to Parliament Hill. Within months he was selected as one of the Top 100 lobbyists on the Hill, and over the past seven years expanded the federal practice with highly skilled consultants from both sides of the aisle.


Two years later, Brad Lavigne took the firm cross-country with the founding of our Western practice. Having served as the National Director and Director of Communications for the NDP, an architect of Jack Layton’s 2011 election breakthrough, and in numerous positions in provincial government in his native British Columbia, Brad was well placed to expand Counsel’s offerings into Western Canada. Over the past five years, he recruited the best expertise available from all parties and established an incredible track record of client success.

Based on their respective records of exemplary consulting work and business expansion, Bob, Brad, and Sheamus each became partners several years after joining Counsel.


In October 2022, Counsel announced a long-term succession plan that will gradually see the Senior and Founding Partners step back from active management and transition the leadership of the firm to partners Brad Lavigne and Sheamus Murphy.

Today, Counsel’s talented team includes consultants representing Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa and experience in every major jurisdiction in Canada. The firm offers government relations services at all levels of government, as well as strategic, crisis, and stakeholder communications services.


The firm’s 18-year history, and our consultant’s rich experiences, inform the work we do every day to deliver solutions for our clients’ most important opportunities and challenges. Our future goals are to remain true to ourselves and not lose sight of our past. We remain focused on ethical, multi-partisan partnerships with the goal of advancing good public policy.