Coalition pushes for more space funding in Budget 2019


October 30, 2018 – By Jesse Cnockaert. Article originally published in the Lobby Monitor 

A coalition of companies, with a vision of Canada having a place in the stars, is aiming for support through the upcoming federal budget to make it happen.

More than 40 companies have united together under the campaign name “Don’t Let Go Canada,” with the goal of the pushing the federal government to develop a long-term space strategy for the country. Each company supports the movement in different ways – with methods including speaking engagements, funding, social media, and government relations – but it’s all with same basic goal of getting Canadians excited about being a global leader in investing in space.

“Right now, our future in space is in jeopardy,” said Keelan Green, a partner at Prospectus Associates, the public affairs firm representing some of the coalition partners. “The campaign is about raising awareness of Canada’s accomplishments in space; the benefits to Canada and Canadians, which stem from investments in space; and the important contributions of the space industry to our economy and innovation ecosystem.”

The campaign was initiated by the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada and MDA, a company whose tech products include robotics, sensors, and satellite payloads. On Oct. 29, MDA announced it has been selected to provide a conceptual design of a new lunar rover.

Any lobbying activity will be registered under the individual companies within the coalition, but with so many members the coalition keeps busy. On Oct. 4, Mike Greenley, group president of MDA, made a presentation at a pre-federal budget consultation. Greenley recommended the government recognize space as “a national strategic asset,” and that a strategy be developed to fund Canada’s involvement in satellite communications, robotics, earth observations and space science. On the coalition website, it argues the global space market is worth more than US$380 billion, with expectations for that to grow in the coming decades.

When it comes to lobbying, Finance Minister Bill Morneau would be an important target, as would Minister of Innovation Navdeep Bains, according to Green.

“I think [Innovation] has been really onboard with getting a space strategy. They’ve implemented a space advisory board and have made real strides,” said Ryan Anderson, president of the Satellite Canada Innovation Network, one of the coalition members. “The minister is on record several times saying how important space is and what kind of indicator it is for Canadian capability and innovation.”

Bains announced in April 2017 plans to renew Canada’s Space Advisory Board. This past May, Bains also announced an investment of more than $26.7 million in the space technology sector.

Despite this, members of the Don’t Let Go Canada coalition argue Canada has been facing declining investment in space for many years. Canada hasn’t enacted a long-term space strategy since 1994, and the country has fallen from eighth place in 1992 to eighteenth place in 2018 among countries investing their GDP in space.

“The polling by this campaign has shown that people, and the public in general, don’t really understand what Canada is doing in space and what those benefits are to people’s daily lives. That extends to the other ministers who are part of these cabinets and committees, and eventually voting on whether to implement a space strategy,” said Ewan Reid, president of Mission Control Space Services, another coalition partner.

Examples of the way space innovation benefits people’s daily lives includes air conditioners, MRI machines, and memory foam, all of which were invented or advanced by space research.

One of the bigger projects the coalition is hoping to fund through the federal budget is the Lunar Gateway project. The gateway is a planned space station that would orbit the moon at a distance of 400,000 kilometres from earth, compared to the 400 kilometres of the current international space station. Coalition members say one way Canada could contribute is in the form of a next-generation Canadarm. The Canadarm, called Canada’s “most famous robotic achievement” by the Canadian Space Agency, is a series of robotic arms that have been used in space shuttle orbiters to deploy and repair satellites, move cargo and position astronauts. The Canadian government has not yet made any commitment on the lunar gateway mission.

“It’s really important we maintain some global leadership here. These programs not only represent a pursuit of higher knowledge, but a great number of commercial opportunities in the not-so-distant future. Space economics is going to be very big coming up,” said Patrick Thera, president of SED Systems, another coalition partner. “In order to really move ahead, the government of Canada needs to take that initiative and help seek some of these opportunities.”

Other upcoming events with involvement from coalition partners includes the Canadian Science Policy Conference coming up Nov. 7 and Nov. 8. The event is expected to attract more than 700 participants and 200 speakers to the Delta Hotel in Ottawa.

Another event will be the Canada Space Summit, on Nov. 27 and Nov. 29 in Kanata, Ont., which will include speakers such as astronaut Dave Williams, the former director of space and life sciences at NASA, and Holly Johnson, president’s business manager at MDA.

Help support the #DontLetGoCanada coalition by sending an email to your MP and signing the e-petition.