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Canada's Sovereignty Space Race

From September 1, 2008

When it was announced on January 8, 2008, that Canada's largest space contractor, MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, was selling its entire space division to an American company, many Canadians were shocked. On the one hand, the American company, ATK, was an American military contractor and land mine manufacturer. On the other hand, Canada would lose ownership of the Radarsat 2 satellite and the Canadarm.

Turns out this was a lose-lose proposition.

What made the deal worse was the $430 million that the Canadian Government had contributed to the Radarsat 2 project. The Radarsat 2 satellite, designed in large part to image the arctic and protect Canadian sovereignty there, had just been launched in December 2007. With the sale to ATK, Canada would lose access to the satellite, and its $430 million dollar investment. The satellite would then be under American military control.

As the matter was first broached in the House of Commons, the Conservatives behaved dismissively, refusing to answer whether the government would stop the sale, or allow it to go through. Of particular concern, it was discovered in March that Emanuel Montenegrino, Stephen Harper's lawyer, was hired by ATK as a lobbyist to convince Industry Canada to permit their acquisition.

Fortunately, thanks in part to opposition oversight, the sale of MDA was rejected by Industry Minister Jim Prentice on April 10.