Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Lajeunesse vs. Nash: A Strong Potential for Conflict

The political players are slowly lining up along the grand chessboard surrounding the upcoming reviews of the Canadian space systems industry.
AIAC President Claude Lajeunesse in 2005.
These reviews were last discussed in my May 30th, 2011 post "Political Reviews Moving to the Forefront" and now the players are finally surfacing.

Oddly enough, it looks like at least two of the potential players are of strongly differing perceptions, with major past differences of opinion and a strong future potential for conflict.

One even came out strongly against allowing BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) to be sold to US based Alliant Techsystems (ATK) in 2008 while the other seems just as intent about sitting on the fence (unless it comes to supporting F35 procurements).

It will be interesting to see which one ends up with the lasting legacy.

Our story begins with the June 6th, 2011 SpaceRef.ca article "No Change for Space as Federal Government Releases Budget," which covers the Federal budget tabled yesterday and includes a provision for the government to conduct "a comprehensive review of all policies and programs related to the aerospace/ space industry to develop a federal policy framework to maximize the competitiveness of this export-oriented sector and the resulting benefits to Canadians."

This was expected, but the announcement that the review will also be conducted through a consultative process involving the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) and coordinated with the ongoing Review of Federal Support for Research and Development (which is the second of the three reviews related to the aerospace industry discussed in my earlier post) does come as a slight surprise.

Officially, this puts a great deal of focus on AIAC President Claude Lajeunesse, who has suddenly been given a great deal of power over at least two of the three legs of the process. It's also curious to note that the third leg of the policy review, which is focused on defense policy, also seems to be the main focus of recent AIAC press releases as listed on the AIAC website.

But with previous stints as president and vice chancellor of Ryerson University, CEO of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and president and vice-chancellor of Concordia University, Lajeunese would seem well suited to his assigned consultative role in the overall review of science, technology and commercialization issues.

Of course, that would only be a part of the story.

To give an idea of his main focus on civil aviation, military procurement and the F35 fighter, here is Lajeunese speaking at the AIAC 2010 AGM

Lajeunesse has also been accused of encouraging the creeping "corporatization" of the universities he has headed for his emphasis of part-time labor (as per the April 16, 2007 Montreal Gazette article "Concordia Incorporated") and union busting activities (as outlined in the March/ April 2007 Adjunctnation article "Concordia University Union Protests Against $35,000 Stipend"). He also came under fire at both Ryerson and Concordia for pay raises for himself and his immediate entourage.

As for comments and policies relating to the space industry, Lajeunesse has generally been supportive but noncommittal, as per the May 10th, 2008 Montreal Gazette story "MDA gets contract after Aliant deal blocked again" where he makes wholesome, generalized statements supporting new programs but offering up very few specifics.

All of which puts him completely at odds with Peggy Nash, the official opposition's new finance critic. In 2008, according to her Wikipedia entry:
Finance critic Peggy Nash.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology — Nash was instrumental in stopping the acquisition of MacDonald Dettwiler by U.S.-owned Alliant Techsystems, the Canadian space company which produced the Canadarm and RADARSAT-2 satellite, critical to the issue of Canadian Arctic sovereignty. Nash argued that the sale would have devastated the Canadian aerospace industry and eliminated Canadian control over a technology developed with the aid of millions of Canadian taxpayers' dollars.
Nash is also a union organizer and a politician, which also puts her at odds with Lajeunesse, who has never run for public office.

And while Lajeunesse seems well placed at present, it's worth remembering that Nash is directly responsible for the the current state of the space systems sector in Canada and seems to have had a more lasting legacy than Lajeunesse has so far been able to create.

But now someone needs to finish the job she started.

Below is a question Nash placed before the House of Commons in 2008. Based on her phrasing, I'm guessing that she's not in favor of the F35 program either.

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