The CBC talked this week with Marc Garneau, the first Canadian in space, former president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and newly-elected member of Parliament. Garneau, the “science and technology critic” for the minority Liberal party, was asked what a Canadian space policy should be, given that he advocated for one prior to being elected. While stating that he would have to coordinate his own personal views with those of his party, now that he was an elected official, he did offer some ideas of why Canada should have a space policy:
[A] space policy should essentially answer the fundamental question, which is what can space offer to us here in Canada? We have a whole bunch of government departments here in Ottawa, but there’s never been a coherent space policy put together. We were the third country in space, but it’s been more ad hoc than it should be, and a space policy can bring it all together. Ultimately, it will decide our priority. Is earth observation our first priority? Is developing our space manufacturing sector our first priority or is space science our first priority?
If the Canadian government does decide to pursue a space policy, one source of insight could be this open letter to Canada’s space community published earlier this month by several Canadian graduates of the International Space University. As they write:
In order for Canada to continue to be a leading space-faring nation, our government must adopt bold new measures and methods. This is not merely a matter of redistributing the space agency’s funding, or identifying new niche technologies. Instead, the agency must be prepared to create new goals that are clear, achievable, and visionary, re-imagine what space agencies are for and how they work, and embrace the unique opportunities that are available to our nation. The opportunity currently exists for a transformation that can dramatically increase the effectiveness of the CSA, provide new opportunities for Canadian industry, and allow our country to continue to play a truly pioneering role in space.
Among their recommendations for action are:
[T]he use of innovative program management and funding structures, including the introduction of prizes, adopting a new vision that clearly establishes the role of the CSA in enabling humanity’s future in space, creation of policies and programs that promote new entrepreneurial space ventures and increase the number of space firms in Canada, proactive and high-profile interaction with researchers and students at universities across the nation, and a coordinated effort to improve the efficiency of cross-border space business with our largest trading partner, the United States.