This Week in Space for Canada: September 26th, 2009

No one in Canada wants an election, but Canadian political parties are presently going out of their way to hem, haw and pretend that one could potentially happen at any moment.
One of the unintended side-effects of all this activity is a new appreciation that the development of a suitable Canadian scientific, social and business environment for industrial and aerospace focused activities is indeed an appropriate government activity.


With that in mind, here are a couple of policy focused highlights of this week in space for Canada:
Ed Fast, the conservative MP for Abbotsford, on behalf of Industry Minister Tony Clement, announced significant investments in Canada’s aerospace and defence sector last week. The announcement confirmed $200 million in funding for the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative (SADI) and included a repayable investment of $1.8 million in research and development being undertaken by AXYS Technologies Inc. It’s likely that the announcement was made in response to an earlier September 10th announcement by liberal MP Marc Garneau that the Tories are “ignoring (the) aerospace industry.”
According to Robert Brown, the outgoing the outgoing chief executive of aerospace simulator and training company CAE Inc., Canada needs a strategy “to develop global business champions.” Brown recently headed a panel of experts appointed by the Council of Canadian Academies on businesses innovation in Canada which linked Canada’s productivity problem to “weak business innovation, enticing frank discussions among various stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem about what is needed for Canadian businesses to adopt innovation-based business strategies.”
The Aerospace Industries Association of Canada “commends the Government of Canada’s announced improvements to the IRB policy” according to the article “Aerospace Industries Association of Canada congratulates the Government for long awaited improvements to the Industrial and Regional Benefits (IRB) Policy.” Industrial research benefits (IRB’s) are a combination of subsidiaries and preferential procurement used by the Canadian government to support domestic industries of strategic importance and are often used by aerospace and space focused firms.
The informed reader will note that the discussions highlighted above actually focus almost entirely on general issues surrounding science and technology innovation and don’t really mention space at all except in the context of “aerospace” which is mostly about planes.
There are two reasons for this:
First of all, the present conservative minority government has addressed the issues surrounding the development of a dedicated space policy only tangentially in their 2007 publication “Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage” which seems to have essentially defined the policy issues, terms for use and appropriate areas for discussion. But as a rule, any policy discussion related to science and technology is likely going to include space focused activities (which certainly require science and technology).
Secondly, Canadian policy documents relating specifically to space focused activities are generally written at a lower level of government (these days, usually by people within the Canadian Space Agency) and any update or revision of the last document relating specifically to space focused activities (written in 2003 and available online as “The Canadian Space Strategy“) is likely only going to see the light of day after that threatened Canadian election referred to above finally does occur (there might also need to be a majority government which is actually able to support any potential policy update at some point).
Two more quick Canadian space focused items to note this week from the non-political sphere:
The successful launch of the Telesat NIMIQ 5 satellite has led to a follow-on order for a new television-broadcast satellite early in 2010 for customer Bell TV of Canada according to the article “Telesat Eyes New Satellite as Nimiq 5 is Successfully Launched.”
Canadian’s astronomers Gordon Walker, Bruce Campbell and Stephenson Yang’s reticence to promote their discovery of the first exo-planet outside our solar system may cause Canada to miss “it’s moment of glory” according to the article, “Lost world: How Canada missed its moment of glory” which argues that “Canada won that race, but may have hesitated too long to share the credit.”
So that’s this week in space for Canada.

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