Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Canadian Space Conference: When will it be loved?

A hit song from the 1970s, When Will I Be Loved, could be the theme song of the Canadian Space Conference (CSC).
I've been cheated, been mistreated
When will I be loved
I've been put down, I've been pushed 'round
When will I be loved
That’s been the fate so far of the poor CSC.

The Canadian Space Conference 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 an article at CTV News, What happened at Canada's first annual space conference?, the 2014 conference wasn’t exactly a barnburner.

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 Industry Minister James Moore a few weeks before.

Other than a couple of articles in the media (the CTV article from Canadian Press and one at the Commercial Space Blog, 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 says about the 2015 event: “The Canadian Space Conference is postponed. A new date will be confirmed shortly.”

As reported in the Commercial Space Blog article, Our space agency dreams of going to infinity and beyond!!!!!, the original conference date was postponed 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 Commercial Space Blog 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:
2. 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 Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, can put his own stamp on.

What’s more, Minister Bains clearly likes the Emerson Report and will follow through with it. As noted in the Commercial Space Blog article, Two New Government Players Looking to Prove their Usefulness, he said this at 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 suggests an ongoing dialogue, which fits in with the Liberal’s promised strategy of inclusiveness and consultation.

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

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.

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Note: As of February 2, 2016, the CSA’s events web page no longer mentions the Canadian Space Conference.