Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Up to $18.4Mln" More for the Downsview Aerospace Hub

          By Chuck Black

Finance Minister Oliver. Photo c/o Twitter.
After almost five years of "official" campaigning and a further fifteen years of preliminary proposals and politicking, the still not built Downsview Park aerospace hub and its centerpiece, the new Centennial College Aerospace campus, have been offered up more money.

Maybe this time, the facilities will even get built.

As outlined in the July 22nd, 2015 Canadian government press release, "Canada's Aerospace Industry to Reach New Heights in the GTA," Finance Minister Joe Oliver made the announcement that "up to" $18.4Mln CDN would be made available for Centennial College's Downsview Park Aerospace Campus under the Infrastructure Canada New Building Canada Plan.

Reaction to the announcement has been decidedly mixed.

The July 22nd, 2015 Toronto Star article, "Feds promise money for Centennial College aerospace hub," considered the announcement to be simply the latest in a series of similar announcements intended to sway the electorate in advance of the upcoming federal election, currently expected sometime on or before October 19th, 2015.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (left) tours a Centennial College aviation/avionics labs with Centennial College President Ann Buller. As outlined in the March 2014 Site Canada article, “Cultivating Ontario’s Aerospace Future at Downsview Park,” the provincial government, city leaders and an assortment of economic development entities then stood firmly behind the venture. Photo c/o Queens Printer.

And the July 22nd, 2015 Globe and Mail article, "Ottawa’s funding announcement for Tory riding blindsides Ontario," goes even further by quoting Ontario liberal government representatives as stating that that the new funding was "unanticipated" and "bypassed Ontario’s infrastructure wish list."

The article also quoted Ontario Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid as stating that it's not clear from the announcement when or how the money will be distributed. Duguid also called into question “whether they (the conservatives) are actually making a real commitment (to the plan).”

Downsview Park, part of the York Centre federal electoral district which was once considered one of the safest of Federal Liberal seats, is currently held by conservative MP Mark Adler

Perhaps the real mover and shaker behind the plans for a Downsview aerospace hub is Andrew Petrou. The co-founder of the Downsview Aerospace Cluster for Innovation and Research (DAIR) and the special projects officer to the president's office at Centennial College, is shown here presenting plans for the DAIR Research Hub at Downsview Park in February 2014. As outlined in the November 14th, 2014 OMX blog post, "The Upcoming Downsview Aerospace Hub," it's "only been recently that we’ve been able to put together the major players needed to get a facility of this nature off the ground in Canada." According to Petrou, "up until now, the players have been trapped in silos and unable to engage in the cross pollination and communication necessary to build a true innovative culture.” In part, this may still be the case. Photo c/o Alex Urosevic/MEDTE.

Of course, it's not as if the current provincial government under Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne is totally against the project. After all, as outlined in the January 22nd, 2014 Centennial College press release, "Centennial's Aerospace Centre cleared for take-off," her government also contributed $26Mln CDN in the not so distant past.

And, as outlined in the September 11th, 2011 post, "Canadian Aerospace Heritage or Hockey Rink?," Downsview Park was also once the home of the Canadian Air and Space Museum, which would certainly add to the current confusion over plans for any new faculties on the property. Until a home for the museum is found, there will be those wishing to return it to its original location.

Chuck Black
Taken together, these items are strong suggestions that the political ducks are not yet properly aligned to move potential plans forward.

Until they are, don't expect any movement on this front.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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