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Building for the future

It has been said you have to walk before you can run, which sometimes I think is a nice way of saying you’re not really sure of where you’re going, or you don't have a clear understanding of what it is you have to accomplish once you get there.


January 13, 2015
By Stacy Bradshaw


Topics

This premise doesn’t apply to Canada’s aerospace industry, as 2014 saw important infrastructure changes that should help the industry move closer to “sprint” mode in the not-too-distant future.

In February, the federal government introduced its new Defence Procurement Strategy (DPS) with three important initiatives: deliver the right equipment to the Canadian Armed Forces in a timely manner; leverage the acquisition of defence equipment to create jobs and stimulate economic growth in Canada; and streamline the defence procurement process.

Recent history shows military procurement has hit the skids, especially when you consider the fiascos with the quest to replace the aging CF-18s – will it be the F-35 or not? – and the ancient Sea King helicopters with the much-maligned Sikorsky Cyclone CH-148. The new DPS should definitely help unclutter the waters.

The new policy will bring continuous engagement between defence industry experts and industry suppliers early in the procurement process to generate a more cohesive – and decisive – decision-making process. A new Defence Acquisition Guide which outlines future potential requirements for the Canadian Armed Forces, will be useful for suppliers evaluating opportunities available.

“I was very serious today when I said Minister Finley (Diane, Minister of Public Works and Government Services) has been very engaged with industry in making sure we are totally participating in the development of DPS and all of its elements,” Aerospace Industries Association of Canada president and CEO Jim Quick noted in an interview with Wings at the association’s annual conference in Ottawa in November. “We’ve had good procurements and we’ve had some very bad ones recently. I’m optimistic the DPS will be a game changer for us – and frankly, it has
to be.”

Getting it right and expanding the association’s influence in engaging multiple layers of government in committing to – and growing – the aerospace industry led to the establishment of AIAC Pacific in April. With the help of funding from both the provincial and federal governments, the partnership is aimed at unifying the vibrant Western aerospace cluster.

“We just completed an economic analysis of what the industry actually contributes to the provincial economy and it really opened a lot of eyes,” Quick said. “It is actually a lot larger than we thought it was including the development of jobs, the influence on the GDP. When you go to B.C. now, you feel it – everyone has high energy, we know now that we can be a player on the global front.”

Revitalizing the Canadian space program was another major goal in 2014, and the establishment of strong leadership for the Canadian Space Agency – including Walt Natynczyk, deputy minister of veteran affairs Canada, former chief of defence staff and former Canadian space agency president, and Colonel Chris Hadfield, retired Canadian astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station.

“Fifteen years ago, we were one of three countries in the space race, it was us, the Americans and the Russians,” Quick said. “Now, there are 54 other nations and they are all starting to invest in their technology development and innovation. At least now we are having those discussions and certainly the technology development and getting the space companies working again is an imperative situation.”

So, three major initiatives and a strong commitment from industry and government to help Canada remain an aerospace influencer on the global stage. “There are challenges ahead, such as getting small SMEs collaborating with the big tier one and two aerospace firms, but it really has been a good year for Canadian aerospace,” Quick said. And while it’s certainly not running at full speed yet, there are plenty of signs that Canada is a strong participant in the aerospace race.