Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ambitious MP Announces Canadian "Space Caucus" Focused on the Economics and Business of Space

          by Chuck Black

In a timely reminder of the obvious connections between the space industry and the political process, the federal member of parliament (MP) for Nipissing-Timiskaming has announced the creation of a parliamentary "space caucus," which will focus on the economic and business priorities of the Canadian space industry.

Conservative MP for Nipissing-Timiskaming Jay Aspin in his riding office on March 25th, 2014. As outlined in the March 26th, 2014 Nugget.cs article, "Aspin mum on details," the erstwhile conservative was even then "awaiting new aerospace-related tenants in North Bay." Photo c/o

It's one of a series of local initiatives which conservative MP Jay Aspin hopes will cement his hold on the riding in time for the upcoming and expected Federal election, sometime in 2014. Aspin initially finished just 14 votes ahead of liberal incumbent  Anthony Rota in the 2011 election, which triggered an automatic judicial recount but eventually confirmed his tight 18 vote final victory.

As outlined in the November 26th, 2014 press release "MP Jay Aspin establishes parliamentary Space Caucus; Canadian Space Agency to visit North Bay this week," the new initiative kicked off with a Friday meeting between Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and Canadore College representatives along with representatives from the European based, privately held Swiss Space Systems (S3), which recently entered into an agreement with Canadore College to perform tests on a mock-up of the proposed SOAR suborbital space plane.

According to Aspin, “the Space Caucus was established to bring together MPs with space industries in their communities for the purpose of better connecting with business and educational stakeholders, determining challenges and priorities, and creating a better framework for creating and pursuing opportunities. The opportunity for expanding our local space sector in North Bay is important so we need to act on it.”

Aspin may have a point. The 140 companies and organizations listed in the Canadian Space Directory generated $3.327Bln CDN in revenue and employed just fewer than 8000 Canadians in 2012, according to the 2012 State of the Canadian Space Sector Report.

And at least a few of those employers are in Aspin's riding. As outlined in the June 30th, 2014 blog post, "Canadore College Testing New European Space Plane Design," Aspin was also a central player in the recent partnership between the City of North Bay, Ontario, the aviation technology campus at Canadore College and S3 Systems to perform testing of a suborbital space plane mock-up at Jack Garland Airport in North Bay, Ontario.

Of course, this isn't the only recent initiative by Aspin to bolster his chances in the next election.

As outlined on the Jay Aspin website, the ambitious co-chair of the parliamentary aerospace caucus (which has been working hard to move forward with the 2012 Federal Review of Aerospace and Space Programs and Policies,or "Emerson Report") has also recently announced a variety of initiatives, designed to build conservative support in this important swing riding.

Aspin (centre) and other local community leaders in September, 2014. As outlined in the September 26th, 2014 Jay Aspin website post,  "MP Jay Aspin discloses his plans for further development of the local space industry: Strategy for Space Success in our Region," Aspin  first disclosed "his plans to further develop the local aerospace and in particular space industry that was launched earlier this summer with the announcement from Canadore College.” Photo c/o

These initiatives include:
  • The funding Aspin has promised to create a new "transportation corridor" in his riding. As outlined in the November 21st, 2014 press release "MP Jay Aspin unveils major initiative for Highway 11 transportation corridor,"  Aspin has also promised to "engage senior levels of government with transportation infrastructure improvements to the Highway 11 corridor north of North Bay to Temiskaming Shores to improve safety and expand the economy of the region. The thrust of the initiative will be to engage provincial and federal governments to provide this strategic investment for the region."
  • The funding Aspin has promised to provide for the various communities in his riding. As outlined in the November 14th, 2014 press release "MP Jay Aspin delivers over $400,000 for Powassan," the busy MP for Nipissing-Timiskaming  has even promised "a $387,600 investment for Powassan’s new business / industrial park and $20,800 on behalf of the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada for an enhancement for the Sportsplex recreational facility."
And he's promised all of these initiatives within the last month.

However they may fare over the long run, these latest initiatives are a reminder that politicians, even those in the Federal Conservative party of Canada under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, are finally beginning to come to grips with a new political reality which equates space exploration with activism, innovation, commercialization and job growth.

That's a really good place to start with building Canada's contribution to our next great space age. 

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