The Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) is calling for an increase in funds to Canada’s space program and that the government follow through with the commitment it made during the election to work with stakeholders on a Long Term Space Plan. The 2016 Canadian budget needs to recognize Canada’s space program as a national priority, a driver for innovation, and an avenue for creating jobs.
We live in a time where the space domain is critical to national interests. Canadians do not actively think about it, but they rely on satellites for communication and commerce, earth observation for the weather, crop management, water management, emergency response, disaster management and the list goes on. Yet, Canada’s space program is in decline.
Canada is beginning to fall behind in Research and Development (R&D) investment as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as compared to other nations. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada’s investment in R&D overall has declined and now stands at 1.69% of GDP whereas the global average is 2.4%. What’s more, between the period of 2007-2012, Canada’s annual growth rate in R&D was -1.4% compared to a +2.0 for the OECD.
At the same time that R&D spending has been declining we’ve also seen stagnation in investment in Canada’s space program. The CSA A-Base portion of its budget was initially established in Budget 1999 at $300 million and in 2015 dollars would be $215.4 million. According to the CSA the A-Base budget is “now of the order of $260 million”. The only new major space project underway is the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM). When you factor in the RCM padding of the annual budget, it is evident that Canada’s overall spending in the space program in real dollars has been declining. And while Canada hesitates on investing in the space economy, others such as NASA will see a 7% increase in budget, the European Space Agency will see an 18% increase and the U.K. Space Agency, which the U.K. government has recognized as a cornerstone in its economic innovation growth strategy, will also see an increase.
The global space economy is ascending and in 2014 reached $330 billion on 9% growth according to the Space Foundation. Canada’s portion of that pie is just over 1%. Considering Canada’s space history, the skills, technology and educational system we have, and the need to further diversify the economy away from relying so heavily on the resource sector, Canada can, and must, increase our share of this growing economic sector. Otherwise, we risk losing out to others and seeing an increasing number of engineers, scientists and technicians leave for foreign markets.
To do that, Canada needs to:
* Invest more in R&D.
* Iinvest in the follow-on to RCM.
* Invest in critical projects like the Polar Communications and Weather Mission.
* Invest in small satellites.
* Begin the planning and budget process to support the International Space Station between 2020-2024.
* Invest in the future workforce and have a meaningful, ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders on a Long Term Space Plan.