Monday, June 04, 2018

Notorious Space Liberal "Rips" into Federal Conservative MP Who Asked About the Lack of a CDN Space Strategy

         By Chuck Black

For a person who's argued long and loud that Canada needs a new space strategy, it's instructive to note how much SpaceQ editor Marc Boucher disagrees with others who advocate essentially the same position, simply because they're on the wrong side of his political spectrum.

As outlined in the August 30th, 2017 Edmonton Journal post, "Three Edmonton-area Conservative MPs named to new shadow cabinet," Jeneroux was appointed as opposition science critic in Conservative leader Andrew Sheer's shadow cabinet in August 2017. Photo c/o Edmonton Journal.

An example of this would be his June 4th, 2018 post, "Conservative Party Letter Rips Into Liberal Government Over Space Program – Exclusive," which discussed the May 31st, 2018 letter from Federal Conservative party science critic Matt Jeneroux to Federal Liberal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains on the topic of Canada's space program.

Jeneroux wrote:
I am writing to you with respect to the long-awaited Canadian space strategy. It was back in December 2016 that your government first committed to producing a long-term Canadian space strategy. At the time, you committed to a June 2017 release date, as well as to renew and make new appointments to the Space Advisory Board to conduct consultations on creating that strategy. The Board was not put in place until April 18, 2017 – a sure sign that the June 2017 strategy was already on a delayed schedule. 
The consultations have come and gone, ending in May 2017 when the Board had been in place for just over a month. However, following the release of the 2018 federal budget, the Board sent an email to stakeholders to express that they were ‘very disappointed with Budget 2018 as it did not include funding to address a space strategy.’ This wording draws concern that the well overdue strategy has to reach even the drafting stage.
Boucher calls those statements a "politically charged opening," although they seem to be simply statements of fact and/or reasonable assessments of the situation echoed by many commentators, including SpaceQ.

For example, the current board was indeed "renewed" or put in place on April 17th, 2017 as outlined in both this publication and others.

And most of the rest of those "politically charged" statements were once presented as conventional wisdom in posts from multiple sources including the September 7th, 2017 SpaceQ post, "Rationale and Framework for a Canadian National Space Policy," and the March 7th, 2018 SpaceQ post, "The Space Advisory Boards Emails Stakeholders That it Was “Very Disappointed with Budget 2018."

The complete May 31st, 2018 letter from Conservative party science critic Jeneroux to Federal Liberal Innovation Minister Bains on the topic of Canada's space program. To download a PDF copy, simply click on this link. Letter c/o Matt Jeneroux.

According to the most recent SpaceQ article
... the letter (from Jeneroux) takes issue with the Liberal government not just on a new strategy, but in how the government has dealt with Honeywell’s takeover over COM DEV and subsequent layoffs. 
It also takes aim at MDA becoming a business unit within U.S. owned Maxar Technologies, a strategy MDA initiated and created, and ownership of RADARSAT-2. 
Lastly it takes aim at the U.S. led flagship space telescope program WFIRST which Canada had to bail out on due to a lack of commitment by the government...
Boucher calls "political hypocrisy" on those queries, mostly because the Conservatives were in power from 2006 to 2015 and they couldn't come up with a new space strategy, either.

He blames the current Federal government's inability to come up with a space strategy on all the other more important items they have to deal with now, such as "NAFTA, trade wars etc" instead of considering circumstances common to both Conservative and Liberal administrations, which might indicate a pattern which could be addressed.

Oddly enough, SpaceQ wrote one of the early stories on Cambridge ON based COM DEV International layoffs shortly after the company was purchased by Morris Plains NJ based Honeywell International.

To be fair, the September 6th, 2017 SpaceQ post, "Cambridge Facility Sees Workforce Reduction of 49% Since Honeywell Acquired Com Dev International," was a pretty newsworthy post.

Along with mentioning a far higher percentage of layoff than Jeneroux listed (35%, as compared to the 49% quoted by SpaceQ), the SpaceQ post even mentioned that, "just before the latest round of layoff notices went out, Honeywell reported better than expected second quarter results on July  21 with US$10.1 billion in revenues," but Honeywell went through with the layoffs anyway.

When compared to the earlier SpaceQ post, the Federal Conservative party science critic doesn't seem to have been anywhere near that inflammatory or hypocritical in his letter.

A quick reminder, courtesy of the March 7th, 2018 Bloomberg post, "SpaceX, Trudeau Will Help Lift Satellite Maker Out of It''s Slide, CEO Says," of what keeps Maxar Technologies CEO  Howard Lance awake at night. Screenshot c/o Bloomberg.

To be fair to Boucher a second time, SpaceQ has a long history advocating for the Colorado based Maxar Technologies MDA subsidiary, a company which used to be the Canadian based, but internationally focused, MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA).

MDA currently sponsors the SpaceQ website and once maintained deep ties with the Federal Liberal Party.

As outlined on her Linked-In page, current MDA director of public affairs Leslie Swartman once even worked as director of communications in the office of the official opposition (then the Liberal Party) from 2007 until 2009, and in two Federal government departments under the Liberals from 2004 until 2007.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

At one time, and as outlined in Part 15 of ,"150 Years of Canadian Aerospace History. More RADARSAT, More Astronauts, the CSA's Growing Importance, the 'Airbus Affair,' MacDonald Dettwiler & the 'Canadarm'," MDA was at the centre of Canadian space activities.

It's only natural that the company would develop strong political connections with its major customer.

Of course, the political connection is less true today, but the relationship between MDA and SpaceQ endures in articles like the October 16th, 2017 SpaceQ post, "As MDA Becomes Maxar Technologies Context is King," which mentioned RADARSAT-2 and delved into MDA 's new status as a regional office for a larger, US based company.

The only real difference between then and now is that now, the Federal Conservatives are noting the situation and starting to ask the questions which make the ruling Liberals uncomfortable.

Is that a bad thing? According to Boucher, it is:
The Conservatives and their surrogates are using MDA as political fodder to make the government look bad.
Never bite the hand that feeds you. A June 4th, 2018 screenshot of the main SpaceQ website showing the ongoing advertising from Brampton ON based MDA, a subsidiary of the Colorado based Maxar Technologies.  As outlined in the February 14th, 2018 Denver Post article, "DigitalGlobe’s parent Maxar Technologies will move its global headquarters to Colorado and hire 800 workers," Maxar is hiring workers for it's new HQ, although the situation in Canada is, at present, far more undefined. Graphic c/o SpaceQ

But there's nothing wrong with holding the government to account for its actions, especially if you're a member of the loyal opposition, who can oppose the actions of the sitting cabinet while remaining loyal to the source of the government's power, like Jeneroux.

Besides, people should be uncomfortable over the current situation and questions need to be asked, even if those questions get asked during Question Period.

In its latest editorial, SpaceQ seems to be discouraging the asking of reasonable questions, especially by an opposition party because the "Conservatives and their surrogates are using MDA as political fodder to make the government look bad."

Sometimes the government needs to look bad. Without a general consensus that the government is "looking bad," there will be no incentive to improve.

Perhaps a better solution would be to simply remind whichever government is in power that there is always someone else who has promised something better.

The Federal Conservative party science critic has decided to explore the possibility of creating that better future and released a letter on the topic. This might goad the ruling government party (currently the Liberals) into action.

And action always speak louder than words.

SpaceQ editor Marc Boucher "clenching" while moderating a panel discussion at the 2017 Canadian Space Summit, which was held from November 21st - 22nd, 2017 in Ottawa ON. Photo c/o SpaceQ.

Who knows. If this is indeed the beginning of a consensus, things would begin to move forward no matter who happened to be in power, which would be a good thing. The 2012 David Emerson led Aerospace Review enjoyed wide bipartisan support across the Federal political parties and seems like a good model to emulate.

Once a solution becomes conventional wisdom, then both parties will rush to see who can implement it first and reap the political benefits.

The space industry will win under this scenario.

But that won't happen unless the space advocacy community and SpaceQ editor Boucher (often categorized by this blog as a "notorious space Liberal" because of his partisan political stances), starts to care less about who the messenger happens to be this week, and more about finding workable solutions to the current crisis in our space industry.

Otherwise, there can be no "sunny ways," for our Canadian government managed space efforts.
Editors Note: A June 4th, 2018 query into Federal Conservative party science critic Jeneroux's office has confirmed the authenticity of the May 31th, 2018 letter to Innovation Minister Bains. 
But, as always seems to be the case in the political arena, there will to be no immediate or easy resolution to this story. 
A scheduled June 7th, 2017 phone interview with Jeneroux to discuss the letter and learn a little more about why it was sent has since been cancelled by his office. 
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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