Monday, March 27, 2017

Canada's Latest Space Budget; $81Mln for "New Projects" over Five Years Including a Contribution to NASA's Mars Orbiter

          By Chuck Black

Finance Minister Morneau. Photo c/o Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld.
The 2017 Federal budget was tabled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau last Wednesday, just after 4pm, and over the traditional concerns from opposition party members over who received copies of it first.

As outlined in the January 16th, 2017 post, "The REAL Funding Opportunity Behind the Upcoming Canadian Space Agency 'Long-Term Strategy,'" no one really expected major changes to funding already announced or planned before June 2017, when a new, "long-term" strategy for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is expected to be announced.

But even with that caveat, the Federal liberals under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau managed a couple of quiet gifts to the space industry, or at least the government supported component. As outlined on page 92 of the 2017 Federal Budget Document, titled, "Building a Strong Middle Class," the budget promised:
... investments that will underscore Canada’s commitment to innovation and leadership in space. Budget 2017 proposes to provide $80.9 million on a cash basis over five years, starting in 2017–18, for new projects through the Canadian Space Agency that will demonstrate and utilize Canadian innovations in space, including in the field of quantum technology as well as for Mars surface observation. The latter project will enable Canada to join the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) next Mars Orbiter Mission...
The CSA budget for 2018/19, as announced previously, remains at $333Mln but will drop in 2019/20 to $298Mln as ongoing programs wind down. The $80.9Mln announced for new programming is supposed to replace at least some of that decrease in the overall CSA budget.

As outlined in the 2015-16 CSA "Report on Plans and Priorities," the current base budget for the CSA (in essence, the bare minimum for keeping the department operational) is approximately $280Mln annually.

Outside of the CSA, the response to the budget among organizations tracking Canadian space activities and innovation has generally been positive. Examples include:
The Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) which, as outlined in the March 22nd, 2017 press release, "AIAC applauds federal budget measures to support innovation and advanced manufacturing," approved of multiple components of the budget including "the recognition of advanced manufacturing as a strategic sector for Canadian economic growth, will directly support the ability of Canada’s aerospace industry to innovate, grow, and create wealth and prosperity for middle class Canadians." 
AIAC webpage on March 25th, 2017. Screenshot c/o AIAC.
The AIAC press release also noted: 
  • The identification of advanced manufacturing as one of six high-growth priority sectors (targeted in the budget).
The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) was also mostly approving of the budget. As outlined in CATA press release, "CATA Gives Budget Thumbs Up for Innovation Spark to Talent and Marketplace Success," the organization gave the government high marks for its various allocations, including:
  • $950Mln over 5 years to support "superclusters.
  • $400Mln over 3 years for a new Venture Capital Catalyst program. 
  • $14Mln over 2 years for the Futurpreneur Canada program (which matches investment with funding from departments and the private sector). 
  • $50Mln over 2 years for teaching initiatives to help children learn to code. 
  • $395.5Mln over 3 years to expand the youth employment strategy.
CATA website on March 27th, 2017. Screenshot c/o CATA.
However, not everyone reacted favorably to the budget.

As outlined in the March 22nd, 2017 post, "Research stays frozen in Canadian budget," wind chills in Ottawa "approached -30°C as Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveiled the Liberal government’s second budget on Wednesday. Spring may eventually arrive in Canada’s capital, but the deep freeze for Canada’s research community will continue into fiscal 2017–18 as the granting councils received no significant boosts in funding."

On the other hand, as outlined in the March 24th, 2017 Ottawa Citizen Post, "Federal budget reinvigorates National Research Council: Internal memo," others have a more optimistic bent.

The real truth is likely somewhere in between, in a holding pattern as the Federal government figures out what it's innovation agenda is actually supposed to do and how that will effect the space industry. 

Maybe that will happen in June. Maybe.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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