In a world where news is disseminated seemingly at light speed globally, why is it that government departments and ministers make Canadians wait months before making an announcement on a decision that’s already been made?
Waiting on the Minister
The space sector in Canada is perhaps an extreme case of an issue that plagues Canadian governments. Reporters who peruse the Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) Buy and Sell website on a daily basis will, from time to time, come across a new contract from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to a supplier. It could also be Natural Resources Canada or another department that issues a contract related to the space sector.
A recent example is the Canadian CubeSat Project. Teams are waiting to hear if they’ve been selected. The decisions have been made, but not announced. At the same time, we now know that NanoRacks will be paid $2 million as the launch services provider for the Canadian CubeSat Project. We know that because the contract was posted to the PWGSC Buy and Sell website and SpaceQ reported it.
SpaceQ in the course of researching the contract contacted the CSA and NanoRacks to confirm it was for the Canadian CubeSat Project. NanoRacks was eager to talk about the contract but politely declined to provide a statement or discuss the matter fully. The CSA would only confirm the contract was for the Canadian CubeSat Project.
Why would neither of them talk in detail? They’re waiting on the Minister.
Specifically, they are waiting for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) to schedule a time for Minister Bains to formally announce the teams selected for the Canadian CubeSat Project. It has nothing to do with the smooth efficient running of government, but everything to do with the political show. It’s nothing new though.
The Canadian CubeSat Project is the kind of program that governments and ministers want lots of b-roll and photo opportunities for the next election. A government and minister has to get re-elected you know.
Waiting on the Department
But there are other cases that aren’t as high profile and don’t involve the Minister.
The CSA has funding opportunities for several programs. An example is the Space Technology Development Program. SpaceQ has spoken to many contractors who have received contracts but can’t discuss them because the CSA has yet to issue a press release announcing the contract even though its been posted to the PWGSC Buy and Sell website.
To make matters worse, some contractors tell SpaceQ that for some of their short-term contracts the announcement sometimes comes when they are close to wrapping up the contract. That’s ridiculous.
SpaceQ is now reporting on many of these contracts posted to the PWGSC Buy and Sell website within days of them appearing. In every case we can’t get the contractor to discuss the details “on the record” because the CSA hasn’t got their messaging ready.
The public has right to know details of these contracts in a timely fashion.
The CSA needs to up its game to have its messaging in place when contracts are posted. And the excuse of not knowing when they will be posted, doesn’t wash. There’s no reason PWGSC, the CSA and other departments can’t be on the same page as to when their contracts will be posted.