Canada’s innovation minister undertakes space policy revision

Canada will develop a new space strategy, revamping its long-term goals with a focus on advanced technology that can contribute to growing the country’s economy.

A new space advisory board will also be established to help develop the strategy and provide a link with industry, figuring out the best way forward to meet those goals.

The strategy will be released in June, according to Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and economic development.

Navdeep Bains, Canada's minister of innovation, science, and economic development. Credit: Canadian Press/Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science, and economic development. Credit: Canadian Press/Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

“Our strategic objectives will focus on using space to drive broader economic growth and we’ll do that by supporting talent, research and entrepreneurship within the industry,” he noted.

Bains also pointed out that 90 percent of Canada’s aerospace and space firms are small or medium-sized. The government needs to help those companies increase in size to ensure that well-paying jobs stay in Canada, he added.

Bains noted that Canada’s Liberal Party government sees the space strategy as a “research and innovation” plan to fuel growth in the sector.

Sylvain Laporte, president of the Canadian Space Agency, told the Senate defense committee Nov. 21 that his organization is committed to helping smaller space firms, particularly in investment in innovative areas.

“We do have missions where we concentrated specifically on developing microsatellites going forward because we want to engage Canadian industry specifically in those areas of miniaturization,” he explained.

Steve Staples, vice president of the Rideau Institute in Ottawa, said the previous Conservative Party government also promised to reboot Canada’s space program by producing a long-term space plan.

“The Conservatives dragged out the process for years while, in the meantime, very few concrete measures were taken,” said Staples, whose organization has analyzed space sector information for aerospace workers.

First there was an extensive examination released in November 2011 of Canada’s space sector by David Emerson, a former Conservative government cabinet minister.

Emerson’s report called on the government to recognize the importance of space to national security and economic prosperity and recommended the country’s Industry Minister produce annual, 5-year and 10-year plans for the Canadian space program. Those plans would be brought to a cabinet committee for discussion and approval each spring.

In February 2014 the Conservative government issued a 13-page document, Canada’s Space Policy Framework. But that provided only broad brushstrokes of the direction the country wanted to go in space and had few specific details.

The Conservative government promised the release of a long-term space plan by the end of 2014 but that never materialized.

Staples said the Liberal government not only has to come up with a new strategy but needs to implement it on a timely basis. “I think companies and their employees will want concrete action and not a drawn out process,” he said.

Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science, and economic development.

90 percent of  Canada’s aerospace and space firms are small or medium businesses.