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Why preventing the sale of MacDonald Detweiller and Associates to Alliant TechSystems is a Good Thing

April 13, 2008 @ 20:37 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

Both the CBC and The Globe and Mail reported Thursday that the government announced that the takeover of MacDonald Detweiller and Associates Limited (MDA) by Minnesota-based Alliant TechSystems Inc. is not going to be approved because it’s not in the interest of Canada. 

This is a Good Thing.

But, I don’t think the story started with a $1.3 billion dollar take over deal of Canada’s leading space company by an American advanced weapons company, however.  Rather, I think it goes back about ten years or so to when Canada was planning the replacement for our flagship synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging satellite, RADARSAT-1.

At the time, Canada was looking for a launch deal.  The US offered to launch RADARSAT-2 in return for access to data from the satellite for a certain number of years (a fairly standard agreement) and shutter control (not a standard agreement).  (Granting the US shutter control would mean that the US government would get a veto on imaging activities of Canada’s satellite.)

John Manley, then-Minister of Industry, cancelled the agreement for the free launch with the US and instead pursued a commercial agreement in Europe because, among other things, granting shutter control was not an option.  That was a pretty gutsy thing to do and I, for one, was quite impressed.

Canada’s RADARSAT satellites are used, among other things, to monitor and defend our Arctic sovereignty.  SAR satellites can "see in the dark" and aren’t affected by cloud cover.  They are particularly good at imaging ice cover and are key to the Canadian Ice Service being able to provide timely ice reports to ships travelling in the North.  In particular, this allows us to monitor the Northwest Passage.  The Northwest Passage, in particular, is not something the Canada and the US see eye-to-eye on.

Putting a key component of the system that allows us to maintain our sovereignty in the Arctic in the hands of the foreign government that disputes our claim there is not in the best interest of our country.

Let’s not forget that Canadian taxpayers have spent millions of dollars supporting the development of the technology that is RADARSAT-2, not to mention Dextre and Canadarm2, which are part of Canada’s contribution to the International Space Station, and were developed by MacDonald Detweiller and Associates.  All of the technology that make these possible was basically paid for by Canadian taxpayers.  The sale would see it end up being owned a US company that makes a lot of military hardware and seems bent on the militarization of space — a Bad Thing.

This is why it’s the decision to prevent the sale is a Good Thing.

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