For Canada, a New Leader & the Promise of an Actual Space Policy

canadaflagCanada elected a new leader on Monday, with Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party sweeping to victory and ousting Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party from power. Harper has governed the country since February 2006 and had been seeking his fourth electoral mandate.

The election promises to bring some change to Canada’s largely moribund space program, which has suffered from benign neglect during nearly a decade of Conservative rule. It took the Harper government eight years to come up with a policy framework for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Two of the last three CSA presidents have had no discernible background in space.

During the campaign, the Liberals promised to develop a long-term space policy. Marc Garneau, the first Canadian in space and a Liberal Party MP from Montreal, said the plan

should include “a very strong signal that Canada is going to use space to help us, particularly with respect to the environmental changes that are occurring on our planet and in our oceans.”

Garneau also indicated there would be more funding for research and development under a Liberal government.

“We have been a leader in communications technologies and we need to provide more in terms of R&D for that sector,” Garneau added.

Steve MacLean, a former astronaut who served as  CSA president from 2008 to 2013, developed a long-term space plan in 2009. Harper’s government did not embrace the plan.