Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Canadian Space Conference: When Will It Be Loved?

          By Glen Strom

Linda Ronstadt sings "When Will I Be Loved." Photo c/o Capitol Records.
A hit song from the 1960's, and again in the 1970's, “When Will I Be Loved,” could be the theme song of the Canadian Space Conference (CSC).
I've been cheated, been mistreatedWhen will I be loved.
I've been put down, I've been pushed 'roundWhen will I be loved.
The CSC was created by the former Conservative government as a forum for people from industry, academia and government to discuss space issues and plan for the future.

It hasn’t fared well in its short two-year existence. As outlined in the February 26, 2014 CTV News article,“What happened at Canada's first annual space conference?,” the 2014 conference wasn’t exactly a barn-burner.

About 100 stakeholders got together to discuss Canada's space policy framework, the government’s plan for the space industry that had been released by then Industry Minister James Moore a few weeks before.

Other than a couple of articles in the media (the CTV article from Canadian Press and the February 27th, 2014 post, “The ‘Casablanca’ of Space Conferences!”) there wasn’t much public information about it.

Lukewarm results aside, at least that event got off the ground. The 2015 event is in a protracted holding pattern. This is what the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) website has about the conference under Upcoming Space Events:

Screen shot of the CSA Upcoming Special Events webpage taken on December 13th, 2015 and showing the current "to be determined" status for the CSC. The conference was originally scheduled for April 2015. Screenshot c/o CSA.

As reported in the April 19, 2015 article, “Our Space Agency Dreams of Going to Infinity and Beyond!!!!!,” the original conference date was postponed from April to June 2015, and then put on hold. Since it’s now December, the only way to have a conference in 2015 would be to hold it on Mars, where a year is 687 Earth days.

Good reasons may exist for the delay. We just had an election and the new government is deciding what to do about our space program. They also have immediate problems to deal with, like the proposed sale of COM DEV International to American company Honeywell, as noted in the November 7, 2015 article, “Should the proposed COM DEV sale to US based Honeywell trigger the Investment Canada Act?

Then again, another reason may be in play.

The clue is in the Executive Summary of the Emerson Report, more formally known as the Aerospace Review Report. On page 2 of Volume 2: Reaching Higher: Canada's Interests and Future in Space, the second entry says this:
The government (should) establish a Canadian Space Advisory Council, reporting to the Minister of Industry, with membership from industry, the research and academic communities, provinces and territories, and federal departments and agencies.
The Canadian Space Conference was a Conservative government initiative. New governments like a clean slate. The space advisory council would be a fresh start that Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, can put his own stamp on.

Another event which has seemingly gone the way of the dodo is the John H. Chapman Award of Excellence. As outlined in the April 30th, 2012 post, "Space Advocates Connecting the Dots," the award was traditionally presented at the Canadian Astronautics and Space Institute (CASI) annual conference, where CSA past president William "Mac" Evans received the final prize from then current CSA president Steve MacLean in April 2012. Since then, no further trophies have been presented, although at one time the event was supposed to have been included as part of the postponed 2015 CSC. As outlined on the CSA awards website, "the next John H. Chapman Award of Excellence Award (sic) will be awarded at a date to be determined." If nothing else, someone at CSA headquarters sure needs a copy editor. Graphic and photo c/o CSA.

What’s more, Minister Bains clearly likes the Emerson Report and will follow through with it. As noted in the November 22, 2015 article, “Two New Government Players Looking to Prove their Usefulness,” he said this at the November 17th, 2015 Canadian Aerospace Summit in Ottawa:
I have the Emerson report on my desk. Rather than reading the 25 recommendations, I thought I would call Mr. Emerson instead. 
I am aware of the work that the Association (Aerospace Industries Association of Canada) and its members did with Mr. Emerson on the Review of Aerospace and Space Policies and Programs. 
I'm impressed by what has been accomplished, and I'll review what remains to be implemented...(emphasis added)...
The CSC was a one-day event shrouded in secrecy. The word "council" as used in the Emerson Report suggests an ongoing dialogue, which fits in with the Liberals' promised strategy of inclusiveness and consultation.

The Liberal government can continue implementing the Emerson recommendations, make the council more inclusive and open than the CSC was, and claim it as all theirs. Better than what those other guys did.

Glen Strom.
Poor Canadian Space Conference. When will you be loved?

If the Canadian Space Advisory Council is on the minister’s agenda, the answer to that question is never. The romance is already over.

Glen Strom is a freelance writer and editor with a background in business and technical writing. Follow him on Twitter @stromspace for the latest on Canadian space stories.

1 comment:

  1. Whether there is indeed a fresh lick of paint to be added or not, the very concept of a national space-oriented conference is, I think, a sound idea. Even better would be a degree of support from federal and provincial leaders for this nascent industry which still appears to be somewhat rudderless.

    Thanks for raising this topic.


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