Political Points is your daily guide to some of the stories we’re watching in Ottawa and across Canada, by The Globe and Mail’s team of political reporters.
The last astronaut
Fifty years after Canada launched its first satellite, Chris Hadfield will be the last Canadian venturing into space for a while.
Mr. Hadfield launched this morning in a Russian Soyuz rocket and will take over as commander of the International Space Station in March. But unlike the U.S. space shuttles, Soyuz rockets only take three astronauts at a time and they’re now one of the limited ways for a country to send people to space – not leaving much room for Canadians.
In a recent interview with the Globe’s Paul Taylor, Mr. Hadfield reflected on Canada’s past successes in space and related technology.
“To think of how far we have come, as a country in space flight, to go from one little satellite, as a very early experimental thing, through to relay satellites where we could watch hockey from coast to coast … then our arm going on the shuttle, then Marc Garneau going on the shuttle,” Mr. Hadfield said.
“It almost looks like it was all beautifully planned and laid out but it is really just been building on the success of the past, recognizing that in amongst everything else that is going on this is something that Canada ought to be involved in.”
Space research has given birth to many inventions, and satellite technology, for instance, is crucial for modern communication and security.
But the recent Emerson Report into Canada’s space and aerospace industry warns that tradition is in jeopardy – particularly, it says, because the federal government doesn’t pay much attention to space.
“In a sector whose undertakings are innovation-dependent, long term, expensive, and complex, it is critical to have concrete goals, predictable funding, and orderly implementation,” the report says.
Canada spent 0.024 per cent of its GDP on the space sector in 2009, according to the report, a proportion that puts it behind Luxembourg, Finland, Israel and Belgium.
A recent ranking by a U.S. firm also warned that Canada is losing relative strength in the sector as other countries advance quickly.
Jobs and prosperity
In his abortive third term, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty developed a borderline fetish for appointing panels to study his province’s challenges. Now that he’s set to leave office, and those panels are reporting, his yet-to-be-chosen successor is getting all sorts of guidance about how to fill out his or her agenda with everything from energy-sector restructuring to social-service reform.
A report to be released on Wednesday morning represents some of the more anticipated expert advice. With the government having spent most of the past year focused on an austerity agenda, the Jobs and Prosperity Council – chaired by RBC President and CEO Gordon Nixon – was charged with helping find ways to best the grim economic-growth projections that are behind the province’s long-term fiscal challenges.
The report is expected to address potential remedies ranging from expanding Ontario’s export markets to improving skills training, not to mention the seemingly impenetrable challenge of getting the private sector to invest more in research and development. What remains to be seen is whether it will merely set relatively broad goals, or provide the sort of specific recommendations that could help fill the agenda of the government following Mr. McGuinty’s exit.
- Adam Radwanski
A British welcome
Mark Carney won’t have to wait long to face the notoriously probing British media and politicians: he’ll face the country’s first-ever vetting of an incoming central bank governor by Members of Parliament. The House of Commons Treasury Committee meets in February. Expect some questions about the Globe’s account of how the Liberal Party tried to woo Mr. Carney.
New court documents show the federal government dragged its feet for years to collect millions of files on aboriginal residential schools, then passed the job on to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when the task became too expensive.
The dispute came to light as the commission takes the government to court for refusing to release some of the material. It provides a window into the aftermath of a $1.9-billion settlement between the Canadian government, former aboriginal students, churches and others in 2008.