Sunday, November 27, 2016

New space policy for Canada coming in June 2017

If you like the Emerson aerospace report, you'll probably like the government's new space plan, scheduled for release in June 2017.

You might want to get reacquainted with that report, known officially as The Aerospace Review: Volume 2: Reaching Higher: Canada's Interests and Future in Space. The previous Conservative government had commissioned former Member of Parliament David Emerson to create a framework for making the Canadian aerospace industry more competitive internationally.

The change of government after the October 2015 federal election didn't dampen enthusiasm for the report.

In November 2015, Navdeep Bains made his first public speech as Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) at an Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) event in Ottawa. In that speech, Mr. Bains gave a clear signal that he was paying attention to the Emerson report.

Mr. Bains said, "my primary role is to represent all Canadian industry, including the aerospace and space sectors, at the Cabinet table..."

"...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 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)

This past October, a key element of the Emerson report dropped into place when ISED announced they were looking for qualified people to participate in a "revitalized" Space Advisory Board. (See the SpaceRef Canada article, Wanted: A few good space advisors.)

The board was created in 2014 by then Industry Minister James Moore. If you didn't know the board existed, don't feel bad—you're in good company. Of those that did know, many weren't sure who was on it, when it met, or what it did, if anything.

The next move came in early November when two events took place in Ottawa on the same day:
Mr. Bains said the new space policy will be part of the Innovation Agenda, the government's plan to make Canada a leader in 21st century technologies. That means space won't be a stand-alone program. The CSA will work with public- and private-sector stakeholders, as recommended by the Emerson report.

Mr. Laporte echoed the point at the CSCA event. He said that "space is going to be very tightly aligned with the Innovation Agenda going forward." He then went into detail about where the agency fits in with the government's plans.

Integrating space with the Innovation Agenda isn't a recent idea. It's been a regular theme from both Mr. Bains and Mr. Laporte over the past year.

One of the more significant ideas that came from the plenaries that followed the speeches at the CSCA event was the need for a "balanced, sustainable" space program.

If you want to know what that is, read the article at SpaceRef Canada, "A Balanced Space Program from the 2016 Space Policy Symposium." Participants from all sectors—government, industry, and academia—weighed in.

What does it all mean? Maybe, just maybe, a Canadian government is ready to get serious about space.

You'll have to wait until June to find out, though. At this point, cautious optimism may be the best reaction.