Monday, April 27, 2015

The REAL Secret Behind Canada's Next Space Budget

          By Chuck Black

Jay Aspin. Photo c/o Richard Coffin 600 CKAT Country.
According to the head of the parliamentary space caucus, the April 21st, 2015 Federal budget will provide "$30 million over four years to support the satellite communications sector which is what we're all about. We're going to be launching satellites out of North Bay."

As outlined in the April 22nd, 2015 article, "Budget good for city's space industry says Aspin," those are the comments attributed to Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Jay Aspin, who currently acts as the vice-chair of the parliamentary aerospace caucus and as the chair of the parliamentary space caucus.

Now that we've heard the hyperbole, what's the real story?

Joe Oliver's speech. 
As outlined most effectively in the April 22nd, 2015 Space News article, "Canada’s New Space Budget Extends ISS Commitment to 2024," the new budget will include "a commitment to increase Canada’s spending on satellite telecommunications at the European Space Agency and to continue as a partner in the international space station to 2024."

According to the Space News article, the new budget would direct an additional $30Mln CDN over the currently allocated totals to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) program over a period of four years, beginning in 2016. 

So how does spending money in Europe assist Canadian companies in North Bay?

That's a little bit more difficult to explain.

In essence, as a "participating member" of the ESA, Canada is allowed access to most ESA programs, but only so far as it pays for them.

As outlined in the Space News article, "in 2015, Canada is expected to spend some 15.5 million euros ($20.39Mln CDN) at ESA covering both direct program participation and ESA overhead charges."

The 28 page budget brief.
The extra funds allocated in the new budget would be on top of the currently allocated funds, at least according to the April 21st, 2015 post, "Canadian 2015 Budget Includes New Space Funding and Space Station Extension."

And, as outlined in the Space News article, previous Canadian audits of the arrangement "have concluded that Canada’s membership in “Europe’s space club” generates more revenue in the form of contracts to Canadian industry than the Canadian Space Agency pays in annual ESA dues."

So, the allocated funds could just possibly end up back in North Bay and Mr. Aspin's riding at some point, although that's certainly not guaranteed.

Even better, the Federal budget did not indicate which ARTES effort would be receiving the additional funding.

As for the part about continuing as a partner in the ISS until 2024, that promise should also be taken with a grain of salt, at least until the funding is allocated and the upcoming election, currently expected sometime later this year, is finally concluded.

Just like the promised funding to the ESA, this new ISS promise is heavily dependent on the current government receiving a renewed mandate.

Perhaps the best aerospace industry feedback relating to the budget is the April 21st, 2015 Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace (CCAA) press release under the title, "CCAA Applauds Minister Oliver and AIAC for Championing Canadian Aerospace Manufacturing and Advanced Skills Training for the Workforce."

The 528 page full budget.
According to the press release:
The Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace, (CCAA) welcomes Minister Oliver’s initiatives for the Aerospace industry, and congratulates the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, (AIAC), for its successful efforts to secure the federal funding necessary to increase support for the skilled trades in aviation and aerospace, as presented in the Economic Action Plan 2015.
The press release goes on to say that:
Taking action in accordance with the recommendations of the Emerson Committee on Canadian aerospace skills and development means connecting experienced and knowledgeable people from industry, training institutions and government. CCAA’s experience in developing respected competency standards, curricula and skills development strategies complements the work, resources, and mandate of AIAC...
In essence, at least according to the CCAA, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) and even the Emerson Aerospace Review Report (not the "Emerson Committee on Canadian aerospace skills and development," as it's described in the press release), it's all about jobs, even if those jobs are in a cool industry.

Aren't elections always that way?

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