Canada releases space policy framework, but some want more details (and money)

On Friday, Canadian Industry Minister James Moore released a new space policy document, “Canada’s Space Policy Framework,” at an event in Ottawa. The document outlined, in broad terms, Canadian space policy in the form of a set of five core principles:

  1. Canadian Interests First
  2. Positioning the Private Sector at the Forefront of Space Activities
  3. Progress Through Partnerships
  4. Excellence in Key Capabilities
  5. Inspiring Canadians

The document also includes some basic implementation details, although without a great degree of specifics. The policy calls on Canada to use private sector capabilities “wherever feasible” to provide space products and services, rather than develop them within government agencies. It also supports continued investments in key space technologies where Canada has traditionally excelled, such as robotics and space-based radar. It also endorses continued use of the International Space Station and maintaining the nation’s astronaut corps “so as to have Canadians aboard current and future space laboratories and research facilities.” It also calls for the creation of a Canadian Space Advisory Council, composed of representatives of “the full range of stakeholders in the public and private space domain,” to support the development of future policies and strategies.

What the framework doesn’t do, though, is offer much in the way of specifics regarding programs and funding. There’s no mention in the framework of funding for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) or other government agencies involved in space activities. There’s also no mention of specific programs beyond the ISS and the James Webb Space Telescope; the report endorses continued a continued Canadian role in the NASA-led project.

The head of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada endorsed the framework. “We are very pleased that the government has released the Space Policy Framework, and we applaud Minister Moore and his colleagues for recognizing the importance of Canadian innovation and industry as we continue to build on our nation’s proud heritage in space,” Jim Quick, CEO of AIAC, said in a statement.

But the leading opposition party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), used the report’s release to criticize the Conservative government for cuts in Canadian space spending. “The Conservatives have slashed the Canadian Space Agency’s budget, crippling important programs like those that help industry demonstrate that new technologies are space-ready and stimulate youth interest in space-based careers,” said NDP deputy Industry critic Anne Minh-Thu Quach in a statement.

Marc Garneau, Canada’s first astronaut and a former CSA president who is now a member of Parliament for the opposition Liberal party, was more supportive of the framework, but wondered if the government would back up its plans with sufficient funding. “I will wait to see whether the grand words of this framework are going to turn into something positive for Canada’s space program,” he told the CBC. “Fine words have to be backed up by actions and that involves money as well.”

Some more details on Canadian space plans—and funding—may come later today when the Canadian government releases its 2014 budget proposal. The CSA’s core budget had been about C$300 million (US$270 million) per year but is expected to drop to as low as C$260 million (US$235 million) by 2015.

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