Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Quick Update to "Iconic Macdonald Dettwiler is now SSL MDA Holdings, a US Based Company"

          By Chuck Black

It's been an interesting eleven days since we posted the October 7th, 2016 article, "Iconic MacDonald Dettwiler is Now SSL MDA Holdings, a US Based Company with a Canadian Subsidiary." Here are a few of the more notable updates:

Is this the new Canadarm logo? It might as well be, at least according to one Commercial Space reader, who passed this graphic along last week. MDA currently manages, supports and builds a variety of Canadian civilian and military assets including the Canadarm (used in the recently retired US space shuttle) the Mobile Servicing System on board the International Space Station (shown above and also known as the Canadarm2), RADARSAT-2 and the upcoming RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM). Graphic c/o @Space_blog.

First of all, the mass media has taken note of the story.

The October 17th, 2016 National Post article, "U.S. firm stages ‘stealth takeover’ of Canada’s largest space tech company," has quoted Steven Staples, the vice president of the Ottawa based Rideau Institute, which was instrumental in the 2008 battle to stop the US purchase of Macdonald Dettwiler’s (MDA) space division to US based Alliant Techsystems (ATK), as stating that, "what you’re seeing (with the current changes at MDA) is a stealth takeover of sensitive technology that Canadian taxpayers paid for."

Steve Staples. Photo c/o Wikipedia.
According to Staples, "the company executives can say all they want about being Canadian, but the fact remains that US national security interests apply to American companies and their subsidiaries wherever they are.”
Since MDA is now, by its own admission, a US based company “US law is now governing vital Canadian security and space assets," he said. 
Don Osborne. Photo c/o LinkedIn.
The article also quoted Don Osborne, the Canadian based president of MDA's Information Systems Group as stating that, "from a management perspective, I have a boss who I report to who is in the United States.” 
To be fair to Osborne, he also reminded us that “companies have very complicated legal structures for all sorts of reasons." 
Some of those reasons were discussed by both Staples and Commercial Space blog editor Chuck Black, who was also cited in the article.
Secondly, the Federal government is also slowly developing a public awareness of the situation.

According to Derek Mellon, a media relations adviser to the Federal department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development:
An investment is subject to net benefit review when a non-Canadian acquires control of a Canadian business in a manner set out in the Act. 
An acquisition of control  includes investments where: a non-Canadian acquires a  majority of the voting interests in a corporation or other entity;  less than a majority but one-third or more of the voting shares of a corporation unless it can be established that the corporation will not be controlled by the non-Canadian; or, all or substantially all of the assets used in carrying on the Canadian business.
Mellon was responding to an October 7th, 2016 Commercial Space blog e-mail request to Philip Proulx, a press attaché to innovation minister Navdeep Bains for "an interview with a subject matter expert to discuss the importance of MDA to the Canadian economy, our current Federal innovation agenda, and why the current MDA board actions have not automatically triggered a review under the Investment Canada act."

That requested interview seems to have been blown off by the innovation minister, at least for now. We'll update this article as new information becomes available.

Online ad for membership on the Federal governments Space Advisory Board. Its creation was one of the recommendations of the Federal Review of Aerospace and Space Programs and Policies (or "Emerson Report") which was presented to then Industry Minister Christian Paradis in November 2012. Screenshot c/o ISED.

The Innovation Ministry has however, announced that "the Government of Canada is seeking candidates for a Space Advisory Board that is inclusive, forward-thinking and positioned to drive innovation and science in Canada, and that will help identify future opportunities for economic growth that will benefit all Canadians."

As outlined in the just updated federal government website, "ISED Portfolio Ministerial Appointment and Nomination Opportunities," the new committee is "part time," but will "support the development of long term priorities for space, as part of an inclusive Innovation Agenda for Canada to help businesses grow, innovate and export, led by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development."

There is no word on whether the new space advisory board will replace the last one, which was first discussed in the November 9th, 2014 post, "Industry Minister Moore Announces Space Advisory Board Members."

That board was originally composed of an illustrious group of known space experts, including retired astronaut Chris Hadfield and retired general and former Canadian Space Agency (CSA) president Walt Natynczyk, and even convened once or twice, but never publicly issued a report.

For more updates on these and other stories, be sure to check out future posts on the Commercial Space blog.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

1 comment:

  1. Has the point of no return been passed? All I have to say is that those in Canada responsible for this better be held accountable if our neighbours to the south even so much as hint at stopping Canadians from working on tech that WE created, all in the name of ITAR. I'm sure all this has far wider implications, but I'm absolutely seething inside at what is tantamount to treason in my opinion.


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