Student groups across Canada are urging federal election candidates to address Canada’s ailing space sector, which employs more than 8,200 Canadians. Eleven student organizations, from British Columbia to Quebec, have endorsed a call to action by the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space in Canada (SEDS-CAN) that explains how Canada’s space sector is dismally unable to meet the needs of Canadian students and how Canadian space firms are shifting work overseas.
The space sector is a small but important part of Canada’s manufacturing economy. According to Industry Canada, the Canadian space sector generates $3.5 billion every year, employing over 8,200 Canadians. This sector used to be an important global player, notably while Canada was designing and developing the Canadarm. But Canada’s space sector has been withering for over a decade. SEDS-CAN points to several sustained symptoms of this decline, such as Canadian space companies shifting their work to other countries, top talent consistently leaving Canada, and a high turnover rate in Presidents of the Canadian Space Agency seemingly driven by the absence of any clear public mandate for the space sector. These processes have hollowed out a formerly robust and lucrative industry.
This decline is particularly harmful to students. Canada has world-class aerospace education programs, but it can be very difficult to find work in the Canadian space sector. Professor David Zingg, Director of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, says that “the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space in Canada are making a vitally important point. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Canada must do a much better job of providing opportunities for, and therefore retaining, its PhD graduates, not only the space field, but also in aeronautics and other fields within science and engineering.” Since investment in the space industry has been consistently found to grow the economy, this neglect hurts all Canadians, particularly students, and especially those who want to work in the Canadian space sector.