At the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) final town hall in Toronto last week Conservative MP Erin O’Toole told SpaceQ that “he anticipates” a Conservative government “would” honour Canada’s commitment to NASA’s Lunar Gateway and Artemis program.
The town hall featured two veteran members of parliament (MP’s), the Conservative Party’s Erin O’Toole (Durham) and from the Liberals, John McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood). The other three candidates in attendance were Sarah Climenhaga, Green Party (St. Paul’s), Saranjit Singh, NDP (Brampton East) and David Micalef, People’s Party of Canada (Mississauga East).
The moderator for the town hall discussion was the Honourable Jean Charest. Mr. Charest did a good job at keeping the conservation flowing and calling upon all the candidates equally. However, he couldn’t stop barbs from flying, mostly from O’Toole to his Liberal counterpart.
Clearly the experienced MP’s where well versed on the aerospace file while the NDP, Green Party and People’s Party of Canada candidates didn’t have the depth of knowledge to keep up.
The most contentious topic to be discussed was procurement with everyone agreeing on how hard it is too modernize the process. O’Toole, in particular, took the Liberals to task several times over their handling of defence procurement. There is some irony in his comments since the previous Conservative government was also slow on moving forward with defence procurement.
All the candidates pledged that procurement changes would be forthcoming, though none would outline what those changes would be.
Divisive – The Strategic Innovation Fund
The Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) came up several times. For the Liberals this is a key program they say is allowing companies to innovate and generate new jobs, and as McKay put it, will continue to be a centrepiece of a Liberal government.
The Conservatives would get rid of big programs like SIF. O’Toole said a Conservative government wouldn’t pick “winners” as the Liberals do with SIF.
Another consultation for an NDP National Aerospace Strategy
The NDP candidate, Saranjit Singh, a lawyer, who is running in Brampton East, was very articulate and focused on key NDP platform issues. He spoke of the labour shortage in the aerospace sector and how retraining programs would fill those jobs. He also spent some time discussing the NDP’s plan to create a National Aerospace Strategy.
In an interview with SpaceQ, Singh said a new strategy would only come after another set of consultations with stakeholders. Those consultations would start soon after an NDP government was elected.
Importantly, the NDP won’t commit to Canada participating in the US led Lunar Gateway program, for now. Singh said the consultation with stakeholders would need to take place first before the NDP make any decision. As well, they won’t commit to the new Liberal Space Strategy.
Singh is running in a riding where the Liberal incumbent Raj Grewal is not running again. Mr. Grewal left the Liberal caucus after allegations he had a gambling problem. The contest to win the riding is wide open.
Greens and People’s Party of Canada not a factor
The Green Party and People’s Party of Canada mostly stuck with their respective platform points.
David Micalef of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) is an engineer by day. And while he may have technical background, he’s not familiar with the aerospace file. He stuck with the PPC’s theme of lowering taxes and simplifying the tax code.
The NDP candidate Sarah Climenhaga, who had previously run for Mayor of Toronto in 2018, was also articulate but out of her depth and stuck to traditional Green Party themes.
To Mr. Charest credit, at the end of the town hall he tried to steer the last question towards space issues, however Mr. O’Toole took the opportunity to talk once again about defence procurement.
Before the conversation took that turn, Mr. McKay said of the Liberals space efforts, “steady as she goes.”
In a conversation with SpaceQ, O’Toole dodged the question on whether the Conservatives would follow through on the Liberal’s Space Strategy. On the issue of regulatory reform, a Conservative government would push forward changes to help industry. My full conversation with O’Toole can be heard on the SpaceQ podcast this Thursday.
AIAC members happy with town hall
While the audience was appreciative of the AIAC organizing the town hall, some of the people SpaceQ spoke with would have liked to have the opportunity to ask questions of the candidates themselves.
Lastly, the AIAC earlier this year parted ways with their point person on the space file. I spoke with AIAC president Jim Quick who said he was taking over the file.