Harper, Trump & Science a la Carte: A Warning From Canada

Stephen Harper and cat.
Stephen Harper and cats.

Canadian science writer Graham Templeton says the election of Donald Trump and a Republican controlled Congress threatens a repeat of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s nine-year war on science.

Though Americans might be surprised to hear it, Canada offers a good example of why there is a very real need to worry, and of how the coming anti-science administration could realistically affect all of national research. My home and native land has been a fair ways down the road America is just now preparing to travel and, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the endpoint is absolutely disastrous….

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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.

CSA Gets Another President With No Space Experience

Stephen Harper and cat.
Stephen Harper and cat.

In yet another sign of how little Stephen Harper thinks of his nation’s space program, the Canadian prime minister announced the appointment of another president of the Canadian Space Agency who appears to have no expertise in the field. The announcement was made in a low-key press release on Friday, the traditional day set aside for news you don’t care about and/or hope nobody pays any attention to.

The new president as of March 9 will be Sylvain Laporte, the current commission of patents and trademarks. He replaces Luc Brûlé, who became interim president on Nov. 3 after the departure of Walter Natynczyk, a retired general who came to the position with no space experience and served for all of 15 months.

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Canadian Space Agency President Departs After 15 Months

CSA President Walter Natynczyk
CSA President Walter Natynczyk

Well, that was quick.

 Retired Gen. Walter Natynczyk will depart his post as president of the Canadian Space Agency next month after only 15 months on the job. He will replace Mary Chaput  as deputy minister of Veterans Affairs effective Nov. 3.
Natynczyk was appointed CSA president on Aug. 6, 2013. He had previously served as chief of defence staff, Canadian Forces, from 2008 to 2012.
“It has been an honor to serve as President of the Canadian Space Agency,” Natynczyk said in a statement on the CSA website. “The Agency has extraordinary potential and an exciting destiny. I believe in its employees. I believe in its mission. Space touches every Canadian, every day of their lives. No matter where I am, I will continue to support Canada’s space program.”
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave no reason for the change. Nor did he appoint a replacement for Natynczyk.
UPDATE: Luc Brule, vice-president of the Canadian Space Agency, will take over as president on an interim basis.

Canadian Opposition Asks: Où est le boeuf?

Parliament_hill
Following the release of the Canadian government’s framework for space, the  opposition party New Democratic Party (NDP) has issued a press release attacking the ruling Conservative Party’s approach to the industry.

After nearly running the Canadian Space Agency into the ground with short-sighted budget cuts and sheer incompetence, the Conservatives are now trying to convince Canadians that they’re its biggest champions.

“Conservatives are compromising middle-class jobs in this innovative sector,” said NDP Industry critic Chris Charlton (Hamilton Mountain). “Thanks to Conservative ineptitude, important projects like the Radarsat Constellation Mission are late, over budget and jobs have been lost.”

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Harper Government Publishes Framework for Canadian Space Program

Stephen Harper
Stephen Harper with cats

Well, better late than never.

A day after celebrating its eighth year in power, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper released its first-ever framework for Canada’s future in space on Friday. The document is not a detailed space policy, of course, but provides a framework for ongoing efforts to define exactly what Canada will do in space and how it will do those things.

The framework, part of the government’s response to the Review of Aerospace and Space Programs and Policies published 15 months ago, lays out five core principles that will guide Canadian space efforts in the years ahead and identifies three area for action.

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AIAC Praises Natynczyk’s Appointment as CSA President

CSA President Walter Natynczyk
CSA President Walter Natynczyk

Ottawa (Ontario), June 14, 2013 (AIAC PR) – Today Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the appointment of General (Retired) Walter Natynczyk as President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), effective August 6, 2013.

Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) President and CEO Jim Quick issued the following statement in response to Gen. Natynczyk’s appointment:

“On behalf of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) and its member companies, I am pleased to extend my sincere congratulations to Gen. Natynczyk on his appointment as President of the Canadian Space Agency. A respected and experienced leader, Gen. Natynczyk has a long record of distinguished service in Canada’s military. AIAC is very pleased that he has been selected to lead the CSA during this critical time.

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Groups Praise New CSA-JAXA Cooperative Agreement

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) and the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) are hailing a new memorandum of understanding signed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) that deeps space cooperation between the two nations.

“Several Canadian Space companies have strong scientific and business relations with Japan. This MOU will strengthen our ties with the Japanese space community in ways which will benefit both nations scientifically and economically,” said Jim Quick, President and CEO of AIAC, in a press release.

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Canada Announces More Arctic Oil Exploration as Huge Ice Sheet Falls into Sea; U.S. Presidential Race Sinks into Muck

The Associated Press is reporting that a large ice shelf almost the size of Manhattan plunged into the Arctic Ocean last month in yet another sign of warming global temperatures. The 19-square-mile Markham Ice Shelf is now adrift off Canada’s northern coast. Over the summer, the Arctic lost 82-square miles of ice cover, an area three times the size of Manhattan.

“The loss of these ice shelves means that rare ecosystems that depend on them are on the brink of extinction, said Warwick Vincent, director of Laval University’s Centre for Northern Studies and a researcher in the program ArcticNet.

“‘The Markham Ice Shelf had half the biomass for the entire Canadian Arctic Ice Shelf ecosystem as a habitat for cold, tolerant microbial life; algae that sit on top of the ice shelf and photosynthesis like plants would. Now that it’s disappeared, we’re looking at ecosystems on the verge of distinction,’ said Muller.”

Yikes! This can’t be good. Or can it?

It is, if you are Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

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Should Canada Scuttle the MacDonald Dettwiler Sale?

Don Martin has an op-ed in the National Post urging the Conservative government of Stephen Harper to scuttle the sale of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates’ space division to American defense contractor Alliant Technosystems.

“This company’s heavily subsidized satellite technology was designed specifically to assert Northern sovereignty, assess global warming’s impact on our crops, measure sea-ice thickness and even spot submarines in shallow water,” Martin writes. “And that’s just the state-of-the-art 2,200-kilogram RADARSAT 2 satellite built and launched by MDA only three months ago.”

The proposed sale, overwhelmingly approved last week by shareholders, has created a major backlash north of the border. The company says it will produce a cash infusion that will allow it to focus on other businesses. Critics like Martin say the sale will devastate Canada’s space industry. The Canadian and American governments must approve the deal.

Shareholders overwhelmingly approved the sale on the very day that MDA’s latest creation, Dextre, rocketed into orbit aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. Astronauts have spent the last few days installing and activating the maintenance robot on the exterior of the station. MDA also built the Canadarm robot cranes for the space shuttle and space station.