Trudeau handpicks Raynolds for senior Ottawa position

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Canmore’s Marlo Raynolds has been appointed to a senior bureaucrat position in Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.

After losing his bid against sitting Conservative MP Blake Richards in the Oct. 19 federal election in the Banff-Airdrie riding, Raynolds moved to Ottawa on Monday (Nov. 2) to work as chief of staff for minister of the environment and climate change Catherine McKenna.

Raynolds, whose area of expertise lies in energy and the environment, met with Prime Minister Trudeau the Friday after the election.

“After having a good conversation with him and getting the invitation to join the team, it was pretty hard to say no,” he said.

“This is really an opportunity to try to bring my expertise to solve some of these important issues from the political side and the policy side. It’s an exciting opportunity and I will do the best I can.”

The day after the election, he was busy removing election signs around the riding, then was back at work on Wednesday and then in the dentist’s chair on Thursday, at which point he got an email asking if he could be in Ottawa the next day.

“I went straight home, grabbed a suit, booked a flight, and went to Ottawa. That Friday I was helping out with the team in terms of looking at how to make the transition and implement the plan,” said Raynolds.

“And then mid-week last week, I was offered a position, a senior role with the new government. Obviously, my background is in energy and the environment, and that’s the area I will be working in the most.”

Raynolds, who has 20 years’ experience in the energy sector, resigned from his job as executive vice-president of BluEarth Renewables. Prior to joining BluEarth, Raynolds was executive director at the Pembina Institute, a nationally recognized energy think-tank.

One of the first big jobs for Raynolds will be the United Nations climate change talks in Paris, Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

As part of its election platform, the Liberal Party promised to work with the provinces and territories to take action on climate change, put a price on carbon, and reduce carbon pollution.

Within 90 days of the Paris conference, Trudeau has committed to a first ministers meeting with the provinces and territories to work together on a framework to combat climate change.

Central to this will be the creation of national emissions-reduction targets to recognize the economic cost and catastrophic effect that a greater-than two-degree increase in average global temperatures would represent.

“The delegation to Paris will be a fairly significant delegation, with all the premiers coming,” said Raynolds. “I will be joining the team in Paris.”

As well as taking action on climate change, the Liberal Party’s environmental platform includes investing in clean technologies, creating green jobs and investments while growing the economy.

The Liberal Party has also promised to appoint a chief science officer who will ensure that government science is fully available to the public, that scientists are able to speak freely about their work, and that scientific analyses are considered when the government makes decisions.

Part of the Liberal Party’s environmental platform also includes protecting national parks and restricting development inside the parks. Raynolds said he was not in a position to comment on Lake Louise ski area guidelines at this point.

During the election campaign, he said he heard differing opinions on the expansion of Lake Louise ski resort, but said there needs to be a credible analysis of the ecological benefits and harm of the proposed plan.

“We would not be issuing the permits until that analysis is completed,” he said in an earlier interview on the campaign trail. “It comes back to ensuring national parks are protected and ecological integrity is first and foremost.”

The Liberals have also promised to reverse Stephen Harper’s cuts to Parks Canada, which slashed more than $25 million from programs and services. They will increase funding by $25 million a year for early identification of ecological stressors and to avoid permanent degradation.

At a local level over the past few years, media and public access to Parks Canada documents and staff diminished under Harper’s government. There was a complete communications lockdown during the election.

Raynolds said he believes that’s all going to change, noting media relations – part of a healthy democracy – will change for the better.

“Right off the bat, you can expect a different tone and approach and attitude where Parks staff and park scientists will again be really able to do what they do best – their jobs – and not be muzzled,” he said.

“I think in very short order, Parks will receive a signal that things have changed, things are new, and we want to make sure people are empowered to actually get the work done they need to get done.”

During the campaign, the Liberals promised to modernize and rebuild trust in the National Energy Board, as well as launch an immediate public review of Canada’s environmental assessment processes.

“The Conservatives gutted a lot of the Navigable Waters Acts and Environmental Assessment Act and that cut across a number of departments,” said Raynolds.

“It’s an area that we’ve committed to revamp and that’s a huge job and it has to be done effectively and swiftly.”

Raynolds said the government has an ambitious plan in the area of energy and environment – reducing greenhouse gas emissions, national parks, innovation, clean technology, infrastructure investments, water treatment, green energy, fresh water issues and marine issues.

“I think the platform that we ran on in that area of energy and environment, which is where my background is, is a very ambitious plan,” he said.

“We have a lot of things to get done, but absolutely these are all doable objectives. The expectations are high and we have to deliver,” he added.

“For me, the metric is not getting back to where we were a decade ago. Things were not perfect,” he said.

“We have to quickly recover the last lost decade in our environmental performance, and then think about moving forward and think about strengthening our economy and our environmental performance at the same time.”

Raynolds said the environment is a major priority for the Liberal government.

“In my conversations with Mr. Trudeau, the environment for him is one of the key things that he feels is part of the impact he wants to have and the legacy he wants to have,” he said. “So it’s a going to be exciting to be able to help out in this area.”

Meanwhile, Raynolds plans to move his family, including wife Anya, son Kael and daughter Selah, to Ottawa in January.

“It’s all pretty exciting for everybody. My son is very keen on seeing parliament and meeting the team,” he said. “He worked so hard on the campaign, door-knocking with me and attending all the different events. For him, I think it comes full circle.”

That said, it will be hard for Raynolds and his family to say goodbye to the Bow Valley.

“My wife grew up here, I’ve been here the last 15 years,” he said. “We’re going to miss the Bow Valley.”

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