Canada – A new place for space

Credit: SpaceQ.

Barely a month has passed since my first column on SpaceQ and already my best laid plans to use this column to push for a place for space in governmental budgets has come undone.

My first column argued for the need to welcome MDA back to the Canadian fold and pushed for funding for our space and geospatial ecosystem. This second column was going to underscore the importance of Earth observation data that not only address critical national emergencies as floods, forest fires, earthquakes and pandemics, but are essential to nearly every aspect of decision making in Canada.

But over the past month, Canadian readers of this publication have been witness to: a horrific and murderous rampage in Nova Scotia, the astonishing and precipitous fall of oil prices, a stock market collapse ranked among the worst in history, the eruption of nearly 62,000 COVID-19 cases in Canada causing 4,000 deaths, and the return of a natural disaster to the citizens of Fort McMurray – this time water and not fire. We have mourned the death of Canadian soldiers off the shores of Greece at a time we least expected. And, acting as the backdrop for this all has been the spectacle of a sound, bleach and light show from an inept White House and incoherent President.

At the best of times, we confront these seismic events one-at-a-time. But, this past month we have watched a daily train wreck of events from the comfort of our homes.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, connected public servants have delivered programs and services in record time, with a clear focus on providing results for Canadians. Thrust into roles of leadership, they have shed their cloaks of anonymity and steered national, provincial, and local efforts to “flatten the COVID-19 curve.” That women leaders led this charge and provided needed direction, expert guidance and calm demeanour are why we have seen restoration of trust in our governmental institutions.

On the front lines we have seen acts of compassion and bravery as fellow citizens reported to work. Emergency responders, nurses, doctors, critical contributors in our supply chains – like farmers, energy providers, truck drivers, grocery store operators and workers have kept us safe, nourished, and largely from want.

On the home front, we have coped well. We have acted with kindness and innovatively connected with one another. It is fundamentally important for all Canadians to realize that none of what we have done would have been possible without a legacy of national investments in connecting us to one another virtually and physically, from places like our living rooms to far off capitals in other nations.

In the coming months, there will be many that will pass judgement with the benefit and cynicism of hindsight. In comparison, the space industry can provide optimism with foresight, and solutions that build on all the good things we have done – not just in the past month but throughout our history. As we go forward, let’s reorient our thinking to make sure that we find more than a place for space in a future budget. Let’s work together on a new normal, one that shows how space and place are at the heart of what we do – and how we can continue to build those ties that bind. Funny, it feels pretty good to have the best laid plans come undone …

About Prashant Shukle

Prashant Shukle
President and CEO of the Global Geospatial Group, an international bespoke consultancy focused on geospatial and space-based technology, data and infrastructures. Prashant worked for 30 years in the federal government, in progressively senior roles, with the last ten as the head of the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation. Prashant also serves on a variety of science boards and acts as a strategic advisor for geospatial startups and space consultancies.

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