A year after the independent Aerospace Review was released, the Harper government finally responded to the "Space" portion of the Review. The initial reaction by stakeholders is cautious and understandably so when reviewing the government's response.
The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Industry provided the government's response yesterday in a speech at the Aerospace Innovation Forum in Montreal.
He outlined the following actions the government will take:
- doubling current support for the Space Technologies Development Program;
- establishing a space advisory board composed of industry leaders and chaired by General (Retired) Walter Natynczyk, President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA);
- ensuring new space procurements are consistent with government priorities, in keeping with Tom Jenkins' 2012 report on leveraging military procurement;
- continuing to address the industry's market access and skills development challenges; and
- examining opportunities for the private sector to support the CSA's activities.
As well, the government will release a Space Policy Framework for Canada sometime in 2014.
It should be noted 2015 is when the next Federal election will take place so yesterday's speech by Moore and the Harper government's response should take that into consideration.
With that in mind releasing a Space Policy Framework is a step in the right direction but it is not a replacement for a Long Term Space Plan. And if the Harper government loses the election, a real possibility, then the Space Policy Framework will be meaningless and we'll be back at square one.
Last month, General (Retired) Walter Natynczyk, the new President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), said in his first public speech at the Canadian Space Summit the CSA was working on a new 10 year Long term Space Plan with other government partners but would not reveal any details.
This comes after the previous Long Term Space Plan produced at the CSA, by then President Steve MacLean, wasn't approved by the government.
So while a new Space Policy Framework will be welcomed, it will not outline Canada's long term goals which industry and foreign partners are looking for.
Establishing a Space Advisory Board is a good idea, however the scope of the board, how many members it has and selection are details which need to be clarified and made public.
The one action which the government should be praised for in going forward with is the creation of the Deputy Ministers Governance Committee on Space. This committee will provide oversight on all major space activities undertaken by the government.
The two areas the government falls short on is the doubling of the support for the Space Technologies Development Program and the overall government space budget.
You could call the doubling of the Space Technologies Development Program an election promise. The government plans to enact this by 2015-16. However it will need to be in next years budget for it to go forward in 2015 before the next election set for October 19, 2015.
Where the government also fails is the in the actual declining space budget of the CSA and other departments. The government said the "The CSA's total funding will remain unchanged and at current levels." As well they said they will leverage other department budgets. While better department coordination is needed, the government space sector is still facing declining budgets.
While the government did take a few concrete steps forward yesterday it was hardly the response stakeholders were looking for, but shouldn't come as surprise given the Harper government's record. The government took the easy path forward by moving forward with sensible inexpensive actions while not providing any new funding other than possibly doubling of the Space Technologies Development Program from its very modest $10 million to $20 million.