No longer with the federal government, ELA biologist Michael Rennie is finally able to speak to media
Michael Rennie is enjoying his new found freedom to speak. Professor Rennie is a biologist at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) research station, located in an area encompassing 58 freshwater lakes in Ontario's Kenora District. As It Happens spent months trying to arrange interviews with ELA scientists after Ottawa announced it would no longer fund the internationally acclaimed research facility.
We tried directly. We tried through channels. We tried through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which oversaw the ELA. No luck.
However, the ELA is under new management. It's being funded by an international think tank called the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and Michael Rennie is now free to speak.
As It Happens host Carol Off started by asking Professor Rennie what it was like to finally be able to speak to journalists.
"Great, refreshing," he tells Carol. "I've now been able to do this a few times with my new employer. It's nice."
"Over the time that I was with [the Department of Fisheries and Oceans], I had a number of interview requests on various topics," he says. "For all the interview requests I got, I never actually spoke with a journalist on the record to provide information."
Rennie worked with the federal government for nearly four years.
"One of the things that I've noticed is different between working for my current employer and my previous one, is we'll be contacted by our communications department to speak about topical issues... that never happened with my previous employer. If we ever got contacted by a journalist, it was because they somehow found our email, and that didn't ensure that we could actually speak to them. It would have to go through the many layers of approval that are required for this sort of thing to happen."
"I just found it frustrating as a public servant, and continue to find it frustrating as someone who has colleagues in that environment, that they aren't part of the ongoing discussion in the public and in the media.... Scientists are a relatively careful bunch, we're not just going to go out and start speaking beyond what it is that our study says because we know that we've got our peers to defend ourselves against."