For over 60 years, Canada has been a proud spacefaring nation and our leadership in this strategic sector has resulted in some of the world’s most impactful advances – advances that have significantly improved the lives of millions of Canadians and people around the world.
Fast forward to today, the space sector is a strategic pillar of the Canadian economy, driving world-leading R&D, supporting tens of thousands of Canadian jobs and contributing billions yearly to our national GDP.
But, like the global cleantech, quantum and cybersecurity sectors, the space landscape is rapidly changing. In recent years, the global “New Space Economy” has been expanding exponentially and is expected to grow nearly six-fold, reaching over $2 trillion annually over the coming years. This tremendous growth opportunity has triggered a high-stakes global space race involving the world’s wealthiest and most technologically advanced nations and companies.
Canada is in the very midst of this race, and the stakes are high.
The Emergence of National Space Councils
To buttress government investments and to further capture this global opportunity, governments are increasingly creating national executive forums and whole-of-government political task forces to ensure that space is being prioritized at the highest levels of government in a strategic, results-oriented way.
- The United States has long utilized a National Space Council (NSpC) within the Executive Office of the President, chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris;
- In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs the UK’s National Space Council, which is a full Cabinet Committee; and
- The European Union and other leading space countries like France, China, Russia, and India are also heavily focused on space at the executive level, prioritizing the sector and investing billions of dollars every year in their domestic space capabilities.
In Canada, we need to do the same.
Now Is the Time for Canada’s Space Council
The Government of Canada, in addition to Provincial governments like Quebec and Ontario, have long recognized the importance of the space sector and are investing billions of dollars to drive Canadian space innovation forward. Telesat Lightspeed is a perfect example of all three governments investing in the program to bridge the digital divide and create the jobs of the future here in Canada.
But, given the global competition our industry faces today and the high stakes at hand, Canada needs to ensure space is at the forefront of the national political, economic and social agenda.
By leveraging next-generation Canadian space technology, like Telesat Lightspeed, we can solve some of the largest challenges facing the world today. Whether it be fighting climate change and reaching net zero, delivering high-speed Internet and 5G to everyone everywhere, securing Canada’s Northern sovereignty – a growing priority – space is increasingly becoming a critical part of the solution. These challenges require coordinated, holistic solutions between government and industry and space is a strategic, irreplaceable asset in overcoming them.
- Climate change is arguably the most pressing collective global challenge we are facing that will have significant impacts not only on our planet but on millions of people – if not billions – resulting in new national security, public safety, social and economic challenges. Whether it’s for more sustainable and efficient food production, agriculture, energy development or transportation, next-generation space-based connectivity enables the use of more efficient, connected, clean technologies that create substantial improvements in operational efficiency and support our net zero objectives. For example, broadband-enabled smart agriculture can help reduce the use of water, fertilizer and chemical resources, while limiting waste. Connected precision farming can help optimize resource use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Access to affordable high-speed Internet is one of the most transformational tools we have as a society and as a result, the United Nations (UN) has designated high-speed internet as an essential human right. In fact, affordable high-speed Internet, like what Telesat Lightspeed will provide, is a key enabler of 13 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including quality education, good health and well-being, gender equality, and fostering life on land and water.
- In an already-changing global security landscape, Telesat Lightspeed will significantly upgrade Canada’s national security systems by integrating state-of-the-art satellite communications in our national defence infrastructure. By providing significantly faster, more reliable and secure broadband connectivity with true global coverage – including in both poles – we can make sure our women and men in uniform have access to the most cutting-edge technologies to better serve our nation while maintaining contact with their families, as well as contribute to the global security of our allies.
Canada understands the opportunity of space and for decades has invested in the Canadian space ecosystem. It is now time to take the next step. Canada should create a National Space Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, to ensure Canada’s policies capture the importance and true breadth of the space sector’s benefits for solving our biggest challenges.
Now is the time for Canada to capture the true advantage of space by leveraging a National Space Council to remain a world leader in the New Space Economy – and win this global race.