What Does the New Parliament Mean for the Space File?

Prime Minister Trudeau at MDA. Credit: Canadian Space Agency

Heading into 2020 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal minority government will need to tread carefully to stay in power, but that shouldn’t effect the space file.

Steady as she goes, sort of

Prior to the election, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) held an aerospace election town hall where Liberal MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood) characterized a re-elected Liberal government space file as “steady as she goes.”

The Artemis program

So what will a “steady as she goes” space file mean? It means a continuation of Canada’s civil space program efforts in the U.S. led Artemis program. The initiative has broad support in parliament, including from the Conservatives.

As Canada continues to support the U.S. led Artemis program it’s important to keep a close eye on that program. As NASA Watch reports, Congress only partially funded the US$1.6 billion supplemental budget request that NASA requested in May for the Artemis program. The final NASA FY2020 appropriation approved US$600 million of the US$1.6 billion supplemental budget request. NASA’s FY2020 budget is set at $22.629 billion. With the current level of funding for the Artemis program it’s going to be very tough to meet President Trump’s goal of landing astronauts by the end of 2024.

The Space Strategy and the Strategic Innovation Fund

In the new parliamentary session we’ll see the Space Strategy, a re-imagined Long-Term Space Plan, move ahead with several key points implemented, including likely some regulatory reform.

It also means that we’re likely to see the government ‘pick winners’ that meet their innovation program criteria which will get them funding through the Strategic Innovation Fund.

National Defence

The one area within the space file that will see change is National Defence.

The U.S. Space Force is real. While people may have laughed as President Trump first talked about the idea in March 2018, they aren’t now. Yesterday the Senate passed the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act and now all that’s needed to officially establish the Space Force as the sixth Armed Service of the United States under the Air Force is President Trump’s signature.

In Canada, changes are ongoing within the Department of National Defence (DND) to better support and increase Canada’s Defence Space Objectives as outlined in the governments Strong, Secure, and Engaged defence policy.

This includes more responsibility and resources for the Director General Space which is now a dual-hatted role with Canadian Joint Force Space Component Commander.

To note, the costs of implementing Defence Space Objectives is not as expensive as say buying new aircraft or ships. And this is reflected in very modest demonstration programs like the $15M Project Grey Jay which will see three microsatellites built as part of the All Domain Situational Awareness Science & Technology Program.

The old and new leaders

The new Liberal Cabinet has changes and new faces, but for several key portfolios that have a space stake, there’s little change. That includes the following ministers who are staying put.

  • Navdeep Bains, Innovation, Science and Industry
  • Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence
  • Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance
  • Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport

Having these four ministers, and in particular Minister Bains, staying put, is important in moving the space file forward, providing needed stability and continuity.

A potential change in leadership at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) could be coming in March. That’s when president Sylvain Laporte’s term comes to an end. There’s no word yet as to whether he will be offered a second term or whether he wants to stay on. A spokesperson from the Canadian Space Agency told SpaceQ that discussions are ongoing between Laporte and the Ministers representatives.

Laporte is the second longest serving president at the CSA, and only the second that will have completed one full five year term. Mac Evans served seven years.

Prior to the election another important appointment was made in the Department of Innovation, Science and Industry. John Knubley who was the Deputy Minister retired. Taking his place is Simon Kennedy whom sources report as being very cerebral and who does not suffer fools lightly.

These are the new ministers that have a stake in the space file;

  • Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources.
  • Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
  • Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
  • Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
  • Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health.

The Space Advisory Board

The Space Advisory Board has not met with Minister Bains since the election, however it is expected that sometime in the new year the board will hear from the Secretariat to setup a meeting.

The aerospace caucus and Liberal parliamentarians to watch

The AIAC will be the secretariat for the new Parliamentary Aerospace Caucus (PAC) with the following MP’s as co-chairs;

  • Yvan Baker, Liberal (Etobicoke Centre)
  • Matt Jeneroux, Conservative Party, (Edmonton Riverbend)
  • Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay, Bloc Quebecois, Industry Critic (Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot)
  • Alexandre Boulerice, NDP, Deputy Leader (Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie)

Of note, when the last Conservative government was in power there was also a Parliamentary Space Caucus spearheaded by Conservative Jay Aspin. The Liberals have not seen fit to create a new Parliamentary Space Caucus, though it is something they should consider.

In the meantime, SpaceQ has created an unofficial Parliamentary Space Caucus public list on Twitter for anyone interested to follow. The list includes members of the Parliamentary Aerospace Caucus along with other MP’s who have stake in the space file. We’ll be adding more MP’s to the list in the coming weeks.

Other Liberal MP’s to watch

Here are some of the other Liberal Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and MP’s to watch that could play a role in the space file.

  • Pablo Rodriguez, Leader of the government in the House of Commons (Honoré-Mercier) – Minister Rodriguez will spearhead legislative efforts brought before the House of Commons. Any regulatory reform will have to go through Rodriguez’s office.
  • Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement (Oakville) – A lawyer and law professor with a background in governance, Minister Anand will have the difficult task of reforming procurement. A lessor known fact is that Minister Anand grew up in Kentville, Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is currently seeing several new space startups setting up.
  • Mike Kelloway, (Cape Breton-Canso) – Kelloway replaces the now retired and long serving MP Rodger Cuzner. His riding could become an important one for the space sector should the proposed Maritime Launch Services spaceport get built.

Parliamentary Secretaries

The following Parliamentary Secretaries could have some input on the space file.

  • Will Amos (Pontiac) is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Science)
  • Chris Bittle (St. Catharines) is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport
  • Ali Ehsassi (Willowdale)is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Innovation and Industry)
  • Paul Lefebvre (Sudbury) is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources
  • Rob Oliphant (Don Valley West) is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Darrell Samson (Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook) is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
  • Peter Schiefke (Vaudreuil—Soulanges) is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
  • Anita Vandenbeld (Ottawa West—Nepean) is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence
  • René Arseneault (Madawaska—Restigouche) is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Official Languages)

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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