Prime Minister Trudeau unveiled his post-election cabinet yesterday with major changes including the exclusion of veteran politician Marc Garneau who had served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Transport Minister. Of course most readers of this publication will remember him for being the first Canadian astronaut in space and the president of the Canadian Space Agency. As for the space file, continuity in key posts will help the space program.
Continuity in Cabinet
While there were plenty of changes in cabinet two portfolios important to the space file didn’t change including François-Philippe Champagne of Saint-Maurice — Champlain (Québec) who stays on as Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (ISED) and Omar Alghabra who stays on as Minister of Transport.
ISED which oversees the Canadian Space Agency is of course the most important portfolio for the space sector. Prior to the election, Minister Champagne had been at ISED for a short time, since the cabinet reshuffle on January 12, 2021, barely enough time to get a handle on the vast portfolio. Now though, he has the time to start making progress on the mandate the Prime Minister will outline shortly in his mandate letter. For the space file that will include moving forward with the delivering on the space strategy unveiled by the government in 2019. At least that’s what the stakeholders are hoping for.
It should be noted the “Exploration, Imagination and Innovation” Space Strategy though unveiled in March 2019 was first announced as coming in November of 2016 for release in June of 2017 but was delayed. The space community has been waiting for years for the government to address their outstanding priorities including, and importantly, updating regulations such as the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act (RSSSA), addressing astronomy and Earth observations needs.
SpaceQ contacted a few new and old space stakeholders for comment on the cabinet shuffle but only one was willing to make a public comment.
In an email a spokesperson for MDA sent the following from Mike Greenley, CEO of MDA. “We are pleased to see Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne re-appointed as ISED minister. He has been a terrific supporter of the space sector and we look forward to working with him in the coming years to grow Canada’s space program and position Canada’s innovative space companies for growth in the rapidly-expanding global space economy.”
During the election Minister Champagne did mention that more investments in space were coming through the Strategic Innovation Fund.
ISED also has two other ministers within its portfolio that readers should take note of. Randy Boissonnault of Edmonton Centre (Alberta) is now the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance while Gudie Hutchings of Long Range Mountains (Newfoundland) is now Minister of Rural Economic Development.
Like Minister Champagne, Omar Alghabra of Mississauga Centre (Ontario), the Minister of Transport was part of the cabinet reshuffle in January. With respect to the space file, those in the space community interested in launch will want updates to transport regulations sooner rather than later. That includes Maritime Launch Services who are now making a strong push to get construction on their proposed Nova Scotia based spaceport started this year. They are planning an event to coincide with next months Halifax International Security Forum.
Election cabinet shuffle
Of course one of the other portfolio’s that is critical to the space community is Global Affairs Canada (GAC). For years now we’ve heard that was underfunded and under represented with respect to their space activities. That has meant that much needed regulatory changes to the RSSSA have been moving at a snails pace. While other nations have enacted new regulations to foster growth in their space economies, Canada is still a laggard. This is a sorry state of affairs. The one concrete step forward achieved by GAC was the release earlier this year of a RSSSA regulatory guide. It doesn’t help that GAC has had five different ministers in six years.
Mélanie Joly from Ahuntsic-Cartierville (Québec) is the new Minister of Foreign Affairs. Minister Joly takes over for Marc Garneau who was left out of cabinet. It seems odd that someone with his experience and competence was left out, but SpaceQ and other media sources say the reason was in part his age (72), being male, and because he wasn’t a ‘yes man’ and would push back in cabinet when he didn’t agree with the Prime Minister. Rumours are flying around Ottawa that Garneau will be offered the position of Ambassador of France. If true, it could be his final service to Canada before he retires. It would also trigger a by-election in his Notre-Dame-de-Grâce — Westmount (Québec) riding which has been in Liberal hands since its creation for the 2011 election.
Minister Joly takes on a large and important portfolio and will need to get up to speed quickly to deal with the many challenges including helping Canadian companies on the international scene. Which brings us the other two ministers within the GAC portfolio. Mary Ng of Markham — Thornhill (Ontario) returns as the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development while new to GAC is Harjit S. Sajjan of Vancouver South (BC) who moves over from the National Defence portfolio to Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada.
Minister Ng’s responsibilities include the Trade Commissioner Service which some within the space community have privately criticized for not being as supportive during the pandemic.
Other ministers relevant to the space community include:
- Minister of National Defence – Anita Anand of Oakville (Ontario). Moves over from being the Minister of Public Services and Procurement..
- Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence – Lawrence MacAulay of Cardigan (PEI).
- Minister of Natural Resources – Jonathan Wilkinson of North Vancouver (BC) who moves over from Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
- Minister of Environment and Climate Change – Steven Guilbeault of Laurier — Sainte-Marie (Québec) who moves over from Minister of Canadian Heritage.
- Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food – Marie-Claude Bibeau of Compton — Stanstead (Québec).
- Minister of Public Services and Procurement – Filomena Tassi of Hamilton West — Ancaster— Dundas (Ontario) who moves over from Minister of Labour and Minister of Seniors.
- Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard – Joyce Murray of Vancouver Quadra (BC) who moves over from Minister of Digital Government and as President of the Treasury Board.
A 2023 cabinet?
With the Liberal having a minority government, it is not unreasonable to conclude that another election might be happen within two years. If that is the case, some have speculated that this cabinet is ‘the cabinet’ that would lead the Liberals into the next election. That of course does not take into account any events that might force a change.