Note: This opinion piece originally appeared in the Hill Times’ online edition on August 1, 2018.
Canada is home to a highly innovative and reputable aerospace industry. This is an industry that developed the Canadarm, develops aircraft used around the world, and designs innovative technologies that are used worldwide.
There are more than 400 aerospace firms in Canada, which employ more than 70,000 people. While our aerospace industry is admired by industry groups worldwide for its product quality and innovative technologies, it is not touted at home as much as is deserved.
The fact that Canada’s space strategy is more than a year overdue is evidence that the government isn’t giving the aerospace industry the attention it deserves. In December 2016, the government committed to producing a long-term Canadian space strategy by June 2017. More than one year past the due date, no such strategy has been presented. The Space Advisory Board, which is supposed to be a major orchestrator of the strategy, even expressed disappointment that there was no funding for the strategy in the 2018 federal budget.
As I have previously noted in my letter to the minister, their concerns raise the possibility that the strategy had not even reached the drafting stage when the budget was released in February—eight months after its expected release.
Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains sidesteps questions about the timeline of the strategy, except to say the government hopes to publish its strategy “as soon as possible.” Instead, he chose to make a series of piecemeal aerospace funding announcements in response to industry calls for the strategy.
Under Minister Bains’ direction, investment is leaving Canada in droves. Tax increases for corporations and high-income earners, along with future carbon taxes, is pushing investment to other countries like the United States, where lower tax rates mean a friendlier business environment.
Instead of cutting taxes and changing regulations to keep businesses in the country, the government is subsidizing certain companies. The $950-million superclusters program—which supports a cluster of private companies in five industries—is an example of this government’s tendency to pick winners and losers.
While appearing at the House Industry Committee in May, Mr. Bains admitted his department awarded $5.5-billion in grants and contributions to for-profit enterprises in fiscal year 2017-2018. This government continues to give handouts to companies that don’t need it, while creating regulatory hurdles and unfair tax changes for small businesses.
Canada has lost its competitiveness under this government. Taxpayer money is being funnelled to certain private corporations while other businesses struggle. At the same time, we’re failing to properly promote some of our most potential-filled industries, like aerospace.
Instead of picking winners and losers when awarding federal money, we should make an even playing field for all businesses to succeed. We also need to become better champions of our innovative industries so their accomplishments are more widely known. A good place to start is finally unveiling the long-term space strategy and publicly lauding the aerospace industry so that more Canadians know about our world-class innovation.