Missing – Canadian national space policy, strategy and plan

Canada National Space Policy. Credit: SpaceQ.

A new space policy paper published by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute spells out what stakeholders have known for some time, a true Canadian national space policy, strategy and plan are still missing.

In 2019 the Liberal government unveiled a new Canadian space strategy titled Exploration, Imagination, Innovation – A New Space Strategy for Canada. At the time stakeholders were willing to see how the government went about enacting the strategy. And while the government has moved forward in specific areas, namely a Moon program and the beginnings of an Earth observation strategy, stakeholders clearly don’t see a national space policy, strategy and plan in place.

In fact, the recent government mandated 5 year review of the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act (RSSSA) stated emphatically that “dramatic changes” are needed. (Note that the RSSSA review and this paper were produced by Space Strategies Consulting Limited).

We know that efforts are being made within ISED, Global Affairs Canada and Transport Canada to update policy and guidelines. However, the problem at hand is twofold, limited resources available to work on the space file, and a lack of a real commitment by government to move with any determination. The result has and will continue to exert a cost on the economy and the ability for Canada to remain competitive in an ever expanding and competitive space economy.

The U.S., U.K. and Australia and others all have some form of National Space Council that reports to government. In Canada, the Space Advisory Board has been dormant for three years.

State of Canadian Space Governance
State of Canadian Space Governance. Credit: SSCL/CGAI.

Space – Out of Sight and Out of Mind

The paper in part starts with this “Canada is wholly reliant on space-based systems for a wide range of critical daily activities,” a fact that the government is well aware of. However, the general public is not aware of this. The paper discusses this point saying that “Typically, when something is out of sight, it is also out of mind, and there is no more striking example than satellites in space. An absence of space-mindedness by the general public results in a significant lack of awareness about the critical importance of space- based systems to modern life. Such lack of understanding is dangerous as we continue to increase our space dependencies without consideration of the vulnerabilities surrounding these systems, and the various actors that have capabilities to disrupt them. A well-informed public often leads to better understanding, increased support and greater acceptance for government spending on expensive investments.”

Then in the section discussing the current assessment it states “As a middle space power, Canada relies very heavily on military allies, civil and commercial partnerships and multi-use systems to achieve required space effects. The awkward reality is that we own and operate very little of what we actually need and use on a daily basis. We are dependent on others for critical capabilities.”

The paper looks at some of Canada’s closes allies for approach for some guidance and lists these point.

  • Effective national leadership, potentially including a cabinet committee for space,4 chaired by the prime minister, to ensure broad engagement and optimal allocation of funding for implementation of departments’ desired projects;
  • A national space policy to identify and describe Canada’s goals for space that considers, at a minimum, partnerships, niche contributions, economic opportunities, required sovereign capabilities and leadership objectives in global space governance;
  • A national space strategy to describe how Canada’s goals for space will be achieved, including the co-ordinated allocation of roles and responsibilities for space activities to departments and agencies, and guidance for subordinate civil, commercial and national security space policies and strategies; and
  • Most critically, a fully considered and funded plan that enables the execution of the strategy; without the necessary centralized funding, strategies become words without outcomes.

The paper, the RSSSA review, and the reality of what’s happening with the space sector should light a fire within government that the decades of little to moderate attention to the space file must change.

Read or download the Revitalizing Canada’s Visions for Space paper

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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