Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hadfield Exploring the Canadian Political Landscape

The Friday chat between International Space Station (ISS) commander Chris Hadfield, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and students gathered at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa is an obvious reminder of how the political process has always been intimately connected to space exploration.

Some of this is because of the political capital which normally accrues to those who hang with intellectuals and explorers. Typically, politicians pay back this capital in more tangible ways, with the hard currency of continued funding.

Stephen Harper
But some don't and that's why the Friday conversation was so important.

The Canadian Prime Minister is essentially testing the waters to see if political capital can be cultivated by addressing the current concerns over the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), as outlined in the recent David Emerson led Aerospace Review.
Should this turn out to be so, it's quite possible that there will be some sort of announcement when the next Federal budget comes down on March 21st.

The focus of parliamentary activity will then will shift to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (INDU), which is a committee with quite a bit of history in this area.

Steve MacLean.
In 2008, INDU initiated public discussions on the aborted sale of portions of space contractor MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) to American-owned Alliant Techsystems (ATK). Out of these meetings developed the original Canadian consensus on the need for an updated long term space plan (LTSP) which was duly added to the original mandate of the then incoming CSA President Steve MacLean, in September 2008.

As outlined in the May 23rd, 2010 blog post "Feedback on "The Bill to Push Canada's Agenda in Space," INDU was also the parliamentary committee which MacLean approached in 2010 to ask for an extra two billion dollars over five years in order to "put us at the table" of international space activities. 

This is the closest our last CSA president ever came to publicly releasing his LTSP and provided the real key as to why the plan was rejected. In essence, the MacLean LTSP cost two billion extra dollars over five years, which was simply too rich for the government. 
Hélène Leblanc.

Most recently, on February 28th, 2013, the official opposition in parliment, led by NDP Industry critic Hélène Leblanc, tabled a motion to call David Emerson before INDU to "talk about the recommendations from his report on the aerospace sector."

INDU membership normally includes the Industry Minister and various opposition MP's such as current Liberal MP (and ex-CSA president) Marc Garneau and NDP MP Peggy Nash, who initially brought the MDA/ATK sale to committee members in 2008, and is generally credited with being instrumental in halting the sale. 

While it's not expected that astronaut Hadfield will be required to present before INDU anytime soon, there is little doubt that his recent PR explorations as the public face of the CSA, will be noted by INDU members and affect their upcoming deliberations. 

He should be congratulated on a job well done.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Support our Patreon Page