Canada Unveils New Space Policy Framework Taking a Step in the Right Direction

The Canadian government unveiled a new space policy framework today that reinforces what many within the space sector already new, space is an integral part of Canadian’s everyday lives and its importance will only grow.

The fact that the government recognizes this and is releasing a new policy framework is a step in the right direction. The new framework also implements some of the recommendations as outlined in the Aerospace Review conducted in 2012.

This initial step is also a sign Canada’s space partners have been looking for in reaffirming Canada’s commitment to the space sector and international partnerships. While foreign partners have been reassured by the Canadian Space Agency and other departments of Canada’s commitment, having the government finally come out and directly support what its various department representatives have been saying on the ground, helps immensely.

However, the new space policy is a framework and should not be confused with a Long Term Space Plan that the Canadian Space Agency is currently undertaking to produce in consultation with other government departments. That document will outline the specifics of Canada’s future plans in space.
The new space policy framework will however be used as a base for the Long Term Space Plan.

The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Industry announces the new space policy framework. Credit: Leslie Swartman.

The new framework outlines five principles.

  1. Canadian Interests First: National sovereignty, security and prosperity will be the key drivers of Canada’s activities in space. Canada’s first priority must be to use space effectively in support of these interests.
  2. Positioning the Private Sector at the Forefront of Space Activities: As space yields ever more commercial opportunities, the Government will focus on: Supporting the domestic space industry in the innovation required to bring to market cutting-edge technologies that meet national interests; and utilizing industry where industry has greater capacity, knowledge and skill, or when it can be more efficient and cost-effective.
  3. Progress Through Partnerships: Space is a shared domain and an expensive undertaking. The Government will look to continue partnerships to share the expenses and rewards of major space initiatives. This will include collaboration with international partners to pool data for mutual benefit and obtain services and technologies that would otherwise be unavailable. At the same time, effective export control and regulatory measures will continue to protect Canadian technologies and data from theft or from falling into the hands of hostile interests.
  4. Excellence in Key Capabilities: Canada has had enormous success in a number of areas of space technology, from telecommunications to remote sensing to robotics – expertise that has been invaluable domestically and to our international partners. The Government will continue to support and advance proven Canadian competencies while keeping a close watch on new niches of technological accomplishment.
  5. Inspiring Canadians: An advanced, prosperous nation requires an educated, skilled workforce. Space is a highly visible means of motivating young Canadians to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Working with industry, universities and colleges, the Government will communicate the importance of space in the effort to recruit, support and retain highly qualified personnel.

To implement the five principles the framework outlines four avenues for strategic action:

  • Commercialization: Government has clear responsibilities in areas of the public good, such as public safety, national defence, weather forecasting, environmental monitoring and disaster management. The Government will continue to ensure that it has access to the essential information and services it requires. At the same time, it commits to:
    • Using the private sector, wherever feasible, to provide the equipment and services it needs;
    • Providing the support to ensure that the domestic space industry is robust and globally competitive, especially by assisting in efforts to test and prove the value of new technologies;
    • Pursuing consistent business models tailored to areas of activity from research and development (R&D) to space operations and a level of predictability and transparency
      that industry needs in order to make sound, strategic investment decisions; and
    • Working to negotiate international agreements that open market access opportunities for Canadian firms
  • Research and Development: As a high-technology enterprise, the lifeblood of the space industry is innovation, which in turn rests on research and development. Working with industry and the Canadian space research community, the Government of Canada will encourage further opportunities in R&D and innovation by:
    • Increasing support for technology development, especially in areas of proven strength such as robotics, optics, satellite communications and space-based radar, as well as in areas of emerging expertise;
    • Coordinating with the granting councils and foundations to ensure that space research resources are leveraged and that space research itself figures prominently in their mandates; and
    • Leveraging existing expertise and programs at the National Research Council, Defence Research and Development Canada, Communications Research Centre Canada and the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative – including the newly announced Technology
      Demonstration Program – to better support the space industry.
  • Exploration of Space: Space exploration has changed our understanding of the universe and driven advances in science and leading-edge technologies. The spectacular success of the multi-nation collaboration that built and now operates the International Space Station – an engineering wonder – heralds a new era for space-based science and for permanent human presence in space. The Government commits to:
    • Ensuring that Canada is a sought-after partner in the international space exploration missions that serve Canada’s national interests;
    • Continuing to invest in the development of Canadian contributions in the form of advanced systems and scientific instruments as part of major international endeavours; and
    • Continuing Canada’s Astronaut Program so as to have Canadians aboard current and future space laboratories and research facilities.
  • Stewardship, Management and Accountability: Canada’s commitments and initiatives in space must not be piecemeal. They have to be part of coordinated policies and strategies. In order to consult all pertinent partners in setting its future priorities, the Government will:
    • Establish a Canadian Space Advisory Council, representing the full range of stakeholders in the public and private space domain, chaired by the President of the
      Canadian Space Agency.

At the same time, the Government will empower a committee chaired by a Deputy Minister to review objectives and expenditures.

Group photo with Canadian astronauts, students, Minister Moore and Canadian Space Agency President Walt Natynczyk. Credit: Leslie Swartman.

It’s clear the Canadian government is putting an emphasis on the commercial sector and in particular to help increase export revenues. Export revenues from the 2012 State of the Canadian Space Sector were at $1.584B , slightly lower than the year before. However a lower Canadian dollar, which some analysts expect say could stay lower for several years, could help in this area to increase and secure new export markets.

The new Canadian Space Advisory Council and committee are wildcards at the moment. It’s unclear how the Advisory Council will be chosen and how effective it will be. At the same time it is also unclear how the new government committee will direct objectives outlined in a New Term Long Space Plan.

Ultimately though, Canada’s new space policy framework provides only a base from which to work from. The real commitment to Canadians will be supporting the framework with enough resources to implement it in a substantive way.


About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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