Monday, November 07, 2011

Aerospace Industries Association of Canada at the Podium

As the first step in its federal government supported review of both the "aero" and "space" components of the aerospace industry, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) took its turn at the podium in Ottawa last week to host the 1st Canadian Aerospace Summit.

Here's a quick overview of some of the things that were said:
    Christian Paradis.
  • According to the November 3rd, 2011 Canadian Press article "Feds say review of Canada's aerospace policies will start, finish in 2012" an "industry person" will lead the sweeping federal review of the country's aerospace policies and the review will both begin and end in 2012. The article quotes AIAC vice-chairman David Schellenberg as stating that he "expects to know the identity of the project leader within weeks" and Industry Minister Christian Paradis as stating that the review will start early next year and is expected to be completed "by the end of the year." The article also quotes Canadian Space Agency (CSA) president Steve MacLean as stating that "there are advantages to having the space sector lumped in with the aerospace industry in the review." According to the article, the CSA head has been working on the space agency's own long-term space plan since 2008 and expects it will be incorporated into an overall aerospace strategy.
Michael Pley.
  • According to COM DEV International CEO Michael Pley, the federal government should loosen export rules on selling aerospace technology to China in order to allow Canadian firms to cash in on the Asian country’s growing space program. Pley was quoted in the November 3rd, 2011 Ottawa Business Journal article "Export controls hurting aerospace firms, industry reps say" which also quotes CSA president MacLean as stating that his agency is working on a treaty with China to make it easier for the two countries to work together. According to the article, part of the direction for export markets, including China, will come from a long-term space plan that the CSA was first tasked to put together in 2008, but has never released publicly. 
Steve MacLean.
  • According to the November 4th, 2011 Spaceref.ca article "Opportunity and Risk Ahead for Canada's Space Industry" the federal government has a critical but supporting role to play, especially when it comes to helping industry with foreign markets. There are opportunities but there is also risk as the domestic market is small and can't sustain the industry on its own. The comments were made during a panel discussion on "Does Canada need an aerospace industrial base?" The panel members included MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) president of information systems Mag Iskander, Neptec president Iain Christie, Telesat president and CEO Daniel Goldberg plus COM DEV International CEO Michael Pley and was moderated by CSA president Steve MacLean.
It's worth noting that the CSA takes the upcoming review very, very seriously as noted from the comments above and from the timing of the 2010 State of the Canadian Space Sector Report, released to coincide with the aerospace summit.

Of course, the CSA does hope to incorporate many components of its previous studies into both this new review and as part of the assessment of the Jenkins Review (as documented in my October 17th, 2011 post titled "Federal R&D Recommendations Submitted" and the October 24th, 2011 follow-up post "Responding to the Jenkins Panel on R&D") which covers much the same territory.

But it's also worth noting my February 15th, 2010 post titled "Ottawa Citizen: "Where did that Long Term Space Plan Go?" where I said that:
... if Canada does not define a long term space plan, private business and academia will soon go about creating their own ... Dr. MacLean might need to respond to these rising calls for a long term space plan soon, or else risk becoming irrelevant to the debate.
It's a shame and it might not be their fault, but the window of opportunity seems to have closed on the CSA. The AIAC and others, mainly foreign governments and businesses, now seem to control our space destiny.

1 comment:

  1. Arny Sokoloff, Continuum Aerospace Inc.November 7, 2011 at 10:06 PM

    Chuck, you said:

    "... if Canada does not define a long term space plan, private business and academia will soon go about creating their own ...

    It's a shame and it might not be their fault, but the window of opportunity seems to have closed on the CSA."

    Expecting industry and/or academia to create an overall space plan is neither reasonable nor likely. Businesses tend, and are mandated by their shareholders, to each look out for their particular interests. They are not going to collectively agree on a long-term, big-picture plan for the country's space activities. Even if, hypothetical as it is, they could agree on such a plan their own corporate stakes in the outcome would make it suspect. Individual companies offering such a plan would be even more suspect. Similarly for academia -- to produce a consensus on any overall space plan (other than a recommendation for more funding for academics to study space) would require the proverbial herding of cats. While individual academics may offer their plans, none will be accepted as be a guide for the country in general.

    There is a precedent for creating such a Canadian plan -- the Chapman report of 1967. At the time there was no space agency, so Chapman's group was created to look at the near and longer-term requirements and opportunities for Canada with respect to space.( Incidentally, they did such a superb job that the report has been a basis for much of Canadian space policy since then.) Now that we have a space agency, THEY are the most logical source for such a plan, and as explained above, I can't see a credible alternate source. I believe those of us in the space industry should be encouraging our politicians to use the existing resource that the Federal Government funds, namely the CSA, in regards to long term space planning.

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