After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Is Harper channeling Diefenbaker? Given the Arrowlike shafting of the Mars robotics contract it sure looks like it!

I first became aware of this matter last night while watching Don Newman's Politics. I didn't blog about it last night because quite honestly I was too angry to do so coherently. This is incredibly bad judgment, indeed even worse judgment than I credited the Harper government with, which when one considers the very low opinion I have of them generally is really saying something. I mean really, I thought even Harper wouldn't be so stupid and ignorant as to screw around in one of the most important high tech sectors of the Canadian economy, that being robotics and especially space robotics engineering. This was a sector we built up over decades in no small part to recover from the fiasco and massive skilled brain drain from our aerospace industrial sector as a result of the Diefenbaker cancellation of the Avro Arrow fighter contract. When that contract was cancelled the engineering expertise that had been assembled by the creation of the Arrow was promptly snatched up by NASA and the American aerospace companies and the European agency that would use Canadian expertise to create the Concorde project and subsequent plane with. This set Canada's high tech sector back decades and left us at a strategic disadvantage in the new high tech/information age economy that was starting to develop then and certainly surrounds us these days.

Canada has played a significant role in space exploration by supplying robotics expertise to NASA via things like the Shuttle's CanadArm and the sequel Arm used to construct and operate the space station currently under construction. This is also something Canadians have taken a great deal of national pride in for the last couple of decades, so why Why WHY is Harper's government making a bad decision which negatively affects national identity/pride, high tech economic development, and Canada's access to space?!? This is one of those decisions by this government for which I have no explanation, especially since it would not have cost any new money simply redirecting already existing budgeted funds in the Canadian Space Agency's planned budget. This whole program was to cost 100 million spread evenly over ten years, hardly a great expense, indeed less than the service contract for ONE of the planes this government is buying from Boeing under a no-bid contract. Yet this 100 million would increase our access to the European space market to go along with our American access, would have continued to develop and grow our high tech engineering industry especially our robotics and space robotics sector, and just to add insult to injury this government was apparently told by the American government that if they built the Mars Lander for the Europeans that the Americans would be interested in using the base unit for it's planned Moon colony construction starting in 2020.

Now, this contract was originally to be signed off on last September. However, since the Europeans were caught totally flatfooted by this decision (which given Canada's history of solid commitment to this area of space exploration technology is quite understandable) they had no alternative source in mind. This will change of course, but according to the report I heard on Politics last night the Europeans are still willing to give Canada this contract is we change our minds on it within the very near future, which I would read to mean within the next several weeks to maybe a month or two. Now, why do I compare this to the Diefenbaker cancellation of the Arrow? I do so because the industry has sent clear signals that if Canada is not going to support this kind of Research and Develoment work anymore then it is in their interests to relocate to the USA where there will be such work to be done, which is essentially a repetition of the Arrow fiasco...Canada assembles the engineering talent and ability to create a strong high tech sector and then ends up not supporting that sector just when they are poised for significant expansion with a strong product causing the industry to be broken up and the skilled engineers snatched up by American aerospace engineering firms, NASA, and for the European Concorde development project.

If we do not get this government to reverse this decision and take this contract while we still can grab it I truly believe Canadian history books decades from now will equate this decision with the Arrow decision in terms of its shortsightedness and gutting of a developing high tech sector and further crippling our ability to compete in the most economically valuable kind of economy, the knowledge based one. I mean I know this government tends to be hostile to funding Research and Development but this really is a no-brainer in terms of its obvious advantages and rewards. The levels of contempt and disinterest for these vital if less visible aspects of good government this decision illustrates is truly worrisome and something that has the potential to significantly cripple Canada's long term economic development. Not exactly the mark of good government nor of a government that deserves to be left in power a moment longer than necessary, not that I had not already come to that conclusion but still, this is really disgusting what Harper and company are doing in this matter.

This is something I hope to see the entire Canadian blogging community takes up and hopefully forces the media to start going after this government about. This is something that in my mind needs to be made a political hot potatoe as soon as possible and this government held to sharp criticism and questioning until they reverse this decision. I am glad to see several blogs already have written posts on this very important issue which should by rights have been a no-brainer and is not exactly a partisan issue either. Dave at The Galloping Beaver has one here, Red Tory has one here, A BCer in TO has one here, POGGE has one here, Accidental Deliberations has one here, and Lemon chicken and Lawn Signs has one here. As I find new blogs posting on this issue I will be adding them to this list. Like this one from The Progressive Right here and from Robert at My Blahg here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, it would sure seem so to one who hadn't thought it all the way through. Nice headline, almost as accurate as "Dion Great Environment Minister".

Harper & Co have said they favour continuation, and perhaps even expansion, of the SR&ED type of tax credits. If private industry doesn't think this "wonderful opportunity" is such a great idea, and if no one else in the private sector has come up with funds and asked the Feds to top it up so this endeavour can be mounted, why should the Feds do it alone?

What is the compelling business case? Is it going to have a financial return? When, and to whom?

Is it going to have a societal return. To what segment, and when?

If you look at this "opportunity", it is part of the initiative to get to the moon, mine Helium-3 on a commercial scale and for commercial purposes, and to bring it back to fuel Fusion Reactors. This is why the Chinese are supercharging their space efforts.

Now, where's the benefit, the moral imperative and the risk calculation in all the emotional, and only partially-informed blubber that you pass off as an intelligent post?

And please don't justify on the basis of "we already committed $100 million to another program, just divert that; it's really not new money". IrC over at POGGE demolishes that whopper in the first comment on the post there.

Fri Dec 15, 11:09:00 PM 2006  
Blogger James Bow said...

So, you have no desire to see Canadian technology on Mars? That's sad. The Bush Administration, to its credit, is still trying to get us a Moonbase by 2020. If they can favour research development more than our Conservatives do, that's a sad statement on the state of our "leadership".

Sat Dec 16, 01:55:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Steve V said...

Great post Scotian! Maybe we need to find a military application for the technology, because then we would surely come up with the necessary appropriations.

Sat Dec 16, 11:56:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't understand why Conservatives favour missile defense, but not robotics development. For cripes sake, the two industries compliment each other. For the sake of Rona Ambrose's maintenance, we need the top robot specialists in the country to stay on the job!

Sat Dec 16, 01:17:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Scotian said...


What *ARE* you babbling about?!? This is about the European Mars Lander Rover contract, yet not one word in your comment has anything to do with Mars. It has nothing to do with the many years of government sponsored robotics Research and Development which has built up that sector of our economy into THE world leader. This has been a source of national pride that a small (in terms of population) country like Canada is able to play such a significant role in the exploration of space with things like the CanadArm and its sequel Arm designed for building and operating the currently under construction space station. It is also one of the few areas where Canada has the edge in leading/cutting edge research, which in turn inevitably leads to being at the forefront of those same technologies being used for civilian economic development also.

Incidentally, if you think IrC did a wonderful job of rebutting POGGE at that site then this goes a long way to why you think your own comment is relevant to this discussion. Next time, please try to write something at least tangentially connected to the post in question would you? Otherwise you are going to end up on my personal ignore list fairly quickly.

Steve V:

I suppose that would do it, maybe we should point out how useful these Landers could be down the road in delivering warheads too hard to access mountainous regions...:)


It does seem a bit strange that the CPC was all for Canadian involvement in Missile Defence when that technology has yet to show any real positive results to it yet apparently find this unworthy of interest. It underscores their limited understanding of the importance of funding R&D when it comes to building up high tech industry sectors within an economy. It also underscores their willingness to invest being based first on ideological grounds instead of solid scientific grounds, but then after the "Hot Air Act" introduction that should come as no surprise to anyone.

Sat Dec 16, 02:50:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Sam said...

This is an senseless move by this inept government. This has the potential to put the entire industry back decades. This is Canada's chance to move away from our resources that we so rely on. Our sencond Arrow in less then a 50 years. Why isn't there more of an outrage? does anyone have any new information on this.Is the goverenment willing to reverse this decision? what are the Canadian robotics firms like MD, doing?

Tue Dec 19, 12:38:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The levels of contempt and disinterest for these vital if less visible aspects of good government this decision illustrates is truly worrisome and something that has the potential to significantly cripple Canada's long term economic development."

I would love to know how you developped such a conclusion from what looks like nothing more than a desire to see things only through one set of eyes. Was this the only opportunity for these rocket scientist to find work in this country? Do you have any research that might back up your thinking that this will indeed cause a "brain drain" to the states? Real, hard data. ie. the GDP effect of twenty scientist leaving a resource based country for another one? Your theory makes sense but I have a hard time jumping onto the slippery slope with you and assume that this is the beginning of the end for Canadian brain power.

Thu Dec 21, 04:15:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Karen said...

Off topic scotian, but I wanted to wish you and yours, the very best throughout the holidays!

Sun Dec 24, 07:13:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could it be that Harper and his defence staff already know that once the North American Union is created that there will be no reason for Canada to have a program which the US already has?

Sun Dec 31, 12:12:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Tue Jan 05, 07:42:00 AM 2010  

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