Government should support emerging space industry, including Canso Spaceport – MacKay

By Helen Murphy    

GUYSBOROUGH – Peter MacKay, former MP for Central Nova and federal cabinet minister, has been out of elected politics for three years now, but he has taken a keen interest in the plan for a new industry in an area he used to represent, in the former riding of Pictou-Antigonish-Guysborough. In an interview with The Journal last week, MacKay said he had an opportunity to meet with the proponents of the Canso Spaceport in advance of their recent presentation before Parliament’s Finance Committee, and sees many reasons for government to get behind this and other aspects of an emerging space industry in Canada.

“I take the view that something this large has great employment opportunities and could ground and even bring back a lot of that lost knowledge – now in other jurisdictions – to Nova Scotia,” he said. “That’s the engineers, and people who have worked in the U.S. and around the world. They would be able to do this work in Canso, in Guysborough County. It’s almost too good to be true.”

In terms of Canso Spaceport’s leadership, including Maritime Launch Services (MLS) CEO Steve Matier, MacKay says, “these are legitimate players. This is not a fly-by-night organization.”

MacKay said he’d like to see government put more “substantive support” behind the project. “And that doesn’t mean money. That means working with them and working with the space industry more broadly...which is a massive industry.”

He said he gained insight into the potential of the space industry when he was minister of national defence.

“They need to be more proactive on the regulatory side; they need to work in concert with the private sector to embrace this opportunity. It is highly competitive. The last thing we want to do is wind up in a situation like we did with the Energy East Pipeline, where government, with its regulatory burden, dissuaded energy companies form pursuing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring economic development through a legitimate industry to our region.

“People went elsewhere. And the same thing could happen with a project like this.”

He said MLS recognizes there is a strong market for commercial satellite launches, and has determined that Canso is the best place for their project. “Now they’re not asking for government investment but they are saying ‘don’t put up roadblocks, work with us to find a way to make this a world-class, cost-effective launch facility.’”

MacKay, who now works for a Toronto law firm, said his interest in the project is “purely personal.” He added, “I’m not on any payroll here. But I have a long-standing interest in seeing opportunities come to northeastern Nova Scotia."