Hon. Mac Harb, pursuant to notice of February 5, 2008, moved:
That the Senate take note of the proposed sale of the Canadarm, RADARSAT satellite business to American arms-maker Alliant Techsystems for $1.325 billion;
That the Senate note that this nationally significant technology was funded by Canadian taxpayers through grants and other technology subsidies for civilian and commercial purposes;
That the Senate note that this sale threatens to put Canada in breach of the 1997 international landmines treaty it was instrumental in writing;
That the Senate acknowledge that although Industry Canada will do a mandatory review of the trade issues relating to the sale there are many vital social, political, moral and technological issues that need to be examined;
That the Senate of Canada urge the Government of Canada to block the proposed sale of the nationally significant Canadarm, RADARSAT satellite business to American arms-maker Alliant Techsystems; and
That a message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that House with the above.
He said: Honourable senators, I rise today to bring to your attention the proposed $1.325 billion sale of Canada's cutting-edge space program to an American company, Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, which manufactures cluster bombs and land mines.
A Canadian company, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, or MDA, is best known for partnering with the Canadian Space Agency on the RADARSAT satellite projects, and the Canadarm technology that is the ongoing pride of the 50-year-old Canadian space program and every Canadian citizen.
The RADARSAT-2 technology is a state-of-the-art Canadian scientific achievement. This satellite was developed in partnership with the Canadian government and was launched this past December. It can monitor the environment, report on weather conditions, enforce our sovereignty in the North, spot unauthorized shipping and help manage disasters.
In a few short days, on February 14, Canada's most recent contribution to the space program, a robot named Dexter, will leave Earth onboard the shuttle Endeavour and become the hand of Canadarm2 on the International Space Station.
Over the years, Canadian taxpayers have invested $1.4 billion in the International Space Station. These contributions have resulted in roughly $2.7 billion in economic spinoffs and have created jobs for the equivalent of 45,000 person years.
There is no doubt that MDA's space division is a remarkable example of productive cooperation between the private sector and the public sector and a success both for Canada and the entire world.
However, if MDA's proposed sell-off to ATK is approved by the minister and the respective shareholders, the core of Canada's space business will be under the control of an American company. This, honourable senators, raises questions about our ability to enforce our sovereignty in the North and in other vital areas of national security.
More than half of ATK's $4 billion U.S. in annual revenue comes from military contracts, including cluster bombs, depleted uranium rounds and land mines.
Honourable senators, it is hard to imagine that MDA's space divisions, which to date have focused solely on civilian and commercial applications, will not be affected. We must stop and consider how we could explain to Canadian taxpayers that their investment in this radar and optical imaging technology will now be exported to a U.S. munitions manufacturer.
An important ethical question is raised here, but it must also be asked in a broader sense. A sale like the one being considered here could put Canada in the delicate position of subsidizing — through its research grants and other technology support programs — a U.S. company that manufactures weapons. Two of MDA's key scientists have already tendered their resignation so as not to use their skills for weapons manufacturing.
Canadian taxpayers must be assured that their money is not being used to develop technologies that will end up in the hands of foreign companies and be used for purposes that are inconsistent with our values and national priorities.
Along with RADARSAT and Canadarm technology, Canadians also take great national pride in being the driving force behind the Ottawa Convention, namely, the international mine ban treaty signed here in Ottawa in 1997 by 122 governments and which now has more than 150 member states. The United States is not a signatory to the Ottawa Convention. Honourable senators, the sale of MDA's space division to ATK may, in fact, in my view, contravene the provisions of that treaty — provisions which prohibit the transfer of public money into a company that makes land mines
I will quote Article 1 of the treaty, which outlines the general obligation of signatory states:
Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances: To use anti-personnel mines; To develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, anti-personnel mines…
It is imperative that we investigate our obligations under the treaty thoroughly. ATK, on the other hand, argues that its land mines are self-destruct mines, which have a self-deactivation feature and are only used in combat. ATK says its land mines are Ottawa Convention compliant, but others disagree.
Last week the Minister of Industry appeared before the Senate Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee to discuss the government's science and technology strategy. At that time, the Minister of Industry stated that he would like to see research which is undertaken in Canada be commercialized here as well. Obviously, the sale of RADARSAT-2 brings this issue to a head.
ATK officials have stated that all Canadian-based facilities and workforce will remain in Canada. Surely, honourable senators, this is a situation which is subject to market conditions, strength of the dollar and corporate priorities. We have heard this kind of promise before.
There is no way to guarantee that the Canadian facilities and these highly specialized jobs are protected for the long term. In fact, one of the reasons MDA is selling this unit is that it could not obtain contracts with American companies for security reasons. There will be great pressures to have this work done by American workers in the United States.
Honourable senators, it is just bad business to fund development and then turn around and export the opportunities. As the minister said to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, on the long-term science and technology policy of the government:
Certainly, a preference would be to see research which is undertaken here and commercialized here. I think the policy needs to continue to promote and encourage that. Some of the other actions that the government undertakes need to focus on that.
That was said by the minister on January 31, 2008.
I agree, honourable senators.
In summary, there is a long list of concerns relating to this proposed sale. First, the loss of a 50-year-old space program and the international prestige and economic benefits that go along with what we have developed. Second, the loss of the control of the state-of-the-art satellite system that supports national security and enforces Arctic sovereignty, among a myriad of other tasks. Third, the possible subsidizing of arms and munitions projects that could be in contravention of our international agreements, including the Mine Ban Treaty, and which are definitely contrary to the civilian and commercial purposes supported by Canadian taxpayers in the past.
This proposed transaction requires approval under the Investment Canada Act by the Minister of Industry. There are, in fact, several different approvals needed prior to this transaction being completed, and it is imperative that the minister's review involve not only the economics of the transaction but, as well its social, ethical and political ramifications. The government has the power under these regulations to prevent this sale and to salvage Canada's space program, our access to state-of-the-art surveillance satellite and our international commitment on landmines.
I urge honourable senators to support me in sending a strong message to the other House and the government so they can ban this sale.
On a final note, the government has recently announced that it would introduce a national security test for foreign takeover, noting that Canada was one of the very few countries without such a test. Honourable senators, let us put this issue to the test. In the best interests of Canadians, honourable senators with one stroke of the pen, we can stop this deal from going forward.