Thursday, December 14, 2006

Stephen Diefenbaker?

The excessive hyperbole of this CBC article aside, this is just a baffling decision by the Harper government, and I believe the concerns over a brain drain here are legitimate.

In a nutshell, Canada is a world leader in the robotics industry, particularly in the field of space exploration. Heck, they don’t call it the Canadarm for nothing. The European Space Agency is planning a mission to Mars (an actual mission, not a screening of the movie of the same name) in 2015 and they wanted Canada to built a rover for them.

A great opportunity for Canada to showcase and build on its world-leading robotics expertise, and participate in an exciting mission of exploration. It’s the kind of think that excites young people in the sciences, producing the next generation of innovators. And innovation, as economists will no doubt tell you, fuels economic growth.

But, back to the rover. The Canadian Space Agency was onboard. The Europeans were on board. The Americans were onboard too; they saw the work as helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s own mission back to the moon in 2020; a mission they see Canada’s robotics expertise playing a big role in.

The only people that weren’t on board yet were Canada’s New Conservative Government. Didn’t seem like it would be an issue though. After all, the CSA didn’t need Harper to write a cheque or anything. The CSA proposed funding the project completely through a reallocation of its existing resources and a shuffling of the agency’s priorities. All they needed from the Cons was a thumbs-up.

Instead, inexplicably, Harper’s industry minister, Maxime Bernier, turned the CSA down and killed the project. He said the Cons haven’t decided what they want the CSA to be doing yet (maybe that’s why the Harper Conservatives have left the CSA leaderless for over a year). So, while Bernier and Harper dither, no mission to Mars for the CSA.

The decision has left the Canadian robotics industry reeling, threatening to move South of the border and take its research talent (and high-paying jobs) along with it, warning of another brain drain akin to the one that followed the decision of another Conservative PM, John Diefenbaker, to cancel the Avro Arrow program.

You can argue we just couldn’t afford the Arrow; frankly, I find the comparison overly simplistic myself. But the fact is the rover project would have been funded through existing resources, so the money isn’t a legitimate excuse. Frankly, the Conservatives haven’t been able to come up with one yet.

The fear of a brain drain, however, is very real. Following the success the previous Liberal government had championing research and development and luring top Canadian talent that had left the country back to Canada, this is a troubling development indeed.

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ottlib said...

What is it with Conservatives and our cutting edge industries?

You are right BCer in TO this is a non-sensical move on the Conservatives part with rather large implications.

Hopefully someone can talk sense into these bozos before we see all of those folks depart for greener pastures.

Anonymous said...

They are waiting on the rapture. There is no need for them to invest in a future.

imacynic said...

Go Stevie go, you can do it! We don't need no stinking stupid technologies in this country. They only attract high-priced help and that creates inflation, which kicks the hell out of my portfolio.

We need, way more service workers in the low income range, working at menial jobs with no future and no way out of their current predicament, to keep me satisfied. Low expectations, means low inflation. Keep em down is what I say!

Stevie, your doing great but you still gotta work on getting rid of welfare and public health care, and by the way I'm still waiting for you to change the gun laws so I can aquire some real sweet automatic weapons.

In closing Stevie, considering your views on the environment, I guess between you and me, you won't mind me burning gargage in my back yard eh, hate those 'lefty ooooh the environment is in trouble' blue boxes, I mean these things gotta be costing me money some where.

Merry Christmas to the entitled class and the rest of you snivlers can choke on an undeserved day off from work, that you've managed to weasel out of your poor employer. What's that costing me by the way?

Anonymous said...

If the above post was sarcastic then it's funny as hell. If not, I can only shake my head.

imacynic said...


Yep, just screwing around. Tounge-in-cheek stuff.

Scotian said...

Good post, I've linked it in a list of all the Canadian bloggers I have found so far discussing this issue in my own post at Saundrie. Since the contract is still recoverable if we can place enough pressure on this government then maybe we can get this decision reversed. However that will only happen if enough public interest and pressure is generated, along with media scrutiny which is where I hope the blogs can be of some use.

Dr. Tux said...

Let's topple this God-damn government already!