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Leading Edge: The sky truly is the limit

When David Emerson released his comprehensive analysis of the Canadian aerospace and space markets just prior to the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada’s (AIAC) annual conference in Montreal in December 2013


January 10, 2014
By Stacy Bradshaw


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When David Emerson released his comprehensive analysis of the Canadian aerospace and space markets just prior to the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada’s (AIAC) annual conference in Montreal in December 2013, he made it infinitely clear industry and government must unite and make stronger commitments to ensure aerospace remains a centrepiece of Canada’s international trade agenda.

Emerson was succinct in his speech during the conference’s opening session that aerospace needs to be recognized and treated as a national priority sector. “With big shifts in global economy, we are at risk of falling into a hole we can’t dig ourselves out of,” Emerson told some 350 aerospace professionals. “If you stand still, you go backwards. You ultimately have to run faster to stay in the same place.”

Canada can ill afford to slip behind in the global race, especially when you consider that the Canadian aerospace industry generates more than $22 billion annually and employs some 160,000 Canadians at more than 700 aerospace companies from coast-to-coast. Many of these companies are world leaders in technology, manufacturing and space development, as exemplified by Bombardier’s innovative CSeries, Boeing’s impressive composite leadership at its cutting-edge Winnipeg facility and MDA’s leading space-age satellites. Investing in the future and working to raise the nation’s aerospace profile should indeed be our paramount consideration.

Emerson’s report targeted a number of critical growth areas on both the aviation and space sides of the equation, and 13 months later, it’s safe to say, things are moving in the right direction. As AIAC president Jim Quick points out in his “On Final” column (see page 46), significant progress has been made on these and other fronts:

  • The 2013 federal budget set aside $1 billion over five years for the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative (SADI)
  • A fund of $110 million was created for the Technology Demonstration Program, launched in September by Industry Minister James Moore
  • The budget also contained new initiatives to enhance supply chain development and a national research and technology collaboration network

Progress has also been seen on the space side of the equation. While the loss of Steve MacLean as head of the Canadian Space Agency last February was a blow, his replacement, Canada’s former top soldier, Walt Natynczyk, is eager to help drive the Canadian space program to new heights.

In an effort to help make this a reality, Moore announced at the Aéro Montreal Aerospace Innovations conference in early December details of a comprehensive space policy to be revealed in early 2014.

Moore announced that a new space advisory board comprising industry leaders and chaired by Natynczyk will be formed and the government will double its current support for its space technologies program to $20 million annually by 2015-16. In an exclusive interview with Wings after the announcement, the AIAC’s Quick noted it was simply the latest evidence that the Emerson report is “not sitting on the shelf and collecting dust” as Christian Paradis, minister of industry prior to Moore, vowed when it was released.

“We worked with Industry Canada to ensure the government had everything they needed – recapitalization, tech demos we worked with Industry Canada to make sure government had everything they needed – recapitalization, tech demos, research collaboration, supply chain development . . . these are all things that will affect our global competitiveness in a very positive way,” Quick said. “When you put together what the minister announced today and with the funding for RCM, our renewed commitment to the International Space Station, you are starting to see the elements of what the government sees as a very important industry and one that needs to be supported. Kudos to Minister Moore and the Harper government for seeing this and responding,” Quick said.

Given the ultra competitive nature of the global aerospace and space markets, and the number of established and up-and-coming aerospace nations joining the fray, it’s imperative commitment and collaboration continue between industry and government. Canada is not standing still when it comes to aerospace development – we’re running full out to remain a leader in the race
for space.