Sunday, October 04, 2015

NDP Candidate Peggy Nash Talks About Aerospace and Space Policy

          By Chuck Black

Peggy Nash in 2014.  Photo c/o Dean Goodwin.
Talk to anyone in the NDP about how federal government policies affect the aerospace and space industries and you'll eventually be referred to Peggy Nash

The official opposition shadow cabinet industry critic and incumbent NDP candidate for Parkdale-High Park talked to this blog about the 2012 Emerson Aerospace review, the current election campaign, and how a lack of "leadership" under previous liberal and conservative governments has crippled our domestic space sector.

Nash has a long history tracking the space industry. In 2008, as a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (INDU), her participation helped to block the sale of Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler's (MDA) space assets to US based Alliant Techsystems (ATK).

At the time, MDA was looking for access to the lucrative US military and civilian satellite marketplace to replace the shrinking Canadian markets anticipated as part of the wind-down of the Canadarm and RADARSAT-2 programs. As outlined in the April 10th, 2008 CBC News post, "Federal government blocks sale of MDA space division," the final decision was considered unprecedented.

But Nash feels vindicated by the eventual outcome. MDA's June 2012 purchase of California based Space Systems Loral (SSL) yielded the US based satellite manufacturing capability necessary to comply with US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and it began winning US government and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contracts shortly afterwards.

"MDA remains a Canadian company," Nash said. "The assets developed in Canada for the Canadarm and RADARSAT programs have remained available for future Canadian space activities."

NDP leader Tom Mulcair, seen above campaigning in Montreal on September 7th, has also paid attention to the aerospace industry during the current election campaign. As outlined in the September 8th, 2015 CBC News article, "Tom Mulcair unveils NDP plan to boost aerospace jobs," Mulcair's campaign promises have included the creation of a $160Mln CDN fund to spur innovation and manufacturing and he has calling aerospace a "key sector" which the Conservatives are neglecting. He has also noted that no government minister attended the recent Paris air show to represent Canada. Photo c/o Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press.

More recently, Nash asserts that the 2012 Emerson Aerospace Review, an arm's length, federal government mandated review of Canada's aerospace and space sectors, has "provided some very interesting recommendations."

But Nash doesn't feel that the second volume of Emerson, which was focused around the removal of most procurement functions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the creation of two new CSA oversight committees, the first dealing with procurement and the second tasked with liaison between CSA and other government departments, is the solution needed to begin moving the space industry forward.

"The real problem is that the CSA has essentially been ignored by successive Conservative and Liberal governments," and Nash feels that the only long-term solution is to restore a measure of autonomy to the agency. "The solution to our current situation certainly includes a procurement component. But the real need is to restore core CSA funding to the point where CSA can initiate programs and not just respond to other government departments or commercial concerns."

A chart from the federal policy document on titled "Canada's Space Policy Framework," which was released to mixed reviews by Industry Minister James Moore on January 7th, 2014. Criticized for its brevity (only thirteen pages in PDF format) and lack of transparency after the much larger and far more public success of the comprehensive Emerson Aerospace review, the space policy framework called for putting "Canadian interests first," which was generally conceded to be a statement focused around "political" interests being put first and "positioning the private sector at the forefront of space activities," which was generally taken to mean that the CSA would no longer be able to act as a public advocate for its own projects. Graphic c/o CSA.

"If we want Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques to go to space anytime soon, we need to contribute to their costs and maintain the required infrastructure," Nash continued. "And the CSA also needs a proper president, who can lead the agency and advocate for its goals."

According to Nash, the NDP sees aerospace as a "key sector," and leading indicator of the Canadian economy. Nash believes:
The Conservative party is mostly focused around commodities such as oil and natural resources.
But there is no more innovative sector than the space sector, and innovation is where our next great industries are going to incubate and grow. 
The aerospace sector is a leading indicator, providing high value added jobs to Canadians -- the key to a successful economy. 
Chuck Black
Over the next three weeks, Canadian voters will get to judge the validity of these, and other statements.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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