Sunday, November 08, 2015

A New Era for Canadian Space or More of the Same?

          By Glen Strom

Sometimes you get what you want. Or so it seems. The newly elected Federal government hasn’t said who will have responsibility for space, but what used to be Industry Canada would be a logical choice.

Yes, past tense for Industry Canada.

The newly minted Innovation Minister Bains at a press conference on Parliament Hill on November 6th. As outlined in the November 6th, 2015 Huffington Post article, "Liberals Unmuzzle Canadian Scientists, Promise They Can Now 'Speak Freely,'" he was fulfilling a Liberal party campaign promise to allow government scientists and experts to speak freely about their work to the media and the public. Photo c/o Adrian Wyld/CP.

The incoming Liberal's  have decided to turn it into a super-ministry, an idea that the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) promoted. Industry Canada will now be the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

CATA, which bills itself as the largest high-tech association in Canada, stated their position in an October 16th, 2015 press release with the windy title, “Major Industry Group calls for elected government to consolidate current Minister of State (Science and Technology) and Minister of Industry positions into Minister of Science, Technology and Business Innovation.”

A new ministry with three new ministers. Graphic c/o Wikipedia.
CATA believed that a “newly refocused department would send a message that the federal government is serious about making business innovation the keystone of its economic policies.”

The association was clearly pleased by the government’s response, as shown by their November 4th, 2015 CATA press release, "New Innovation, Science and Economic Development Ministry Announced: CATAAlliance Applauds Positive Pivot to the Future."

The head of the super-ministry is Navdeep Singh Bains. Mr. Bains previously served in parliament in the Paul Martin Liberal government, and later as a member of the opposition. He temporarily lost his seat in the 2011 election to Conservative Eve Adams.

Mr. Bains is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA). He was also a distinguished visiting professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto.

People in the automotive industry are enthusiastic about his appointment to this ministry, as outlined in a November 4th, 2015 article at the Windsor Star, “High hopes for new federal minister in charge of auto industry.” Mr. Bains worked as an accountant and financial analyst for the Ford Motor Company for several years.

Even if it turns out that Mr. Bains isn’t in charge of space, just substitute the name of the minister who will be. The following questions won’t change.

Right now, everything is up in the air (no pun intended) until the new government starts to make its mark, or perhaps leave a mark, depending on what it does.

The first test may come sooner than expected with a potential hot potato. Last week, Cambridge, Ontario based COM DEV International was sold to Honeywell International Inc., as reported in the November 7th, 2015 post, “Will the proposed COM DEV sale to US based Honeywell trigger the Investment Canada Act?”

How will the new minister deal with this one?

Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan and Minister of Small Business and Tourism Bardish Chagger. Will either of them be saddled with the responsibility of supervising the CSA? Photo's c/o Celebrity Speakers Bureau &  the Liberal Party of Canada.

And what about the red-headed stepchild, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)? Will the CSA get a clear mandate, proper funding, a long-range plan, and the independence to execute that plan without politicians meddling in the day-to-day affairs?

Or will the agency continue to meander, doing not much more than acting like the vice-principal of a high school making sternly-worded phone calls to miscreants who step over the party line?

How different will the new minister be from his predecessor at Industry Canada, James Moore? Will he be the new sheriff in town, or will it be meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

Glen Strom.
CATA says they got what they wanted. Will the space industry?

Considering how many promises the Liberals made during the election and the major issues, and high expectations, facing their new government, we’ll likely find out sooner than later.

Glen Strom is a freelance writer and editor with a background in business and technical writing. Follow him on Twitter @stromspace for the latest on Canadian space stories.

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