The Canadian government said yesterday it had blocked the $1.325 billion US sale of sensitive satellite technology to U.S. rocket-maker Alliant Techsystems Inc. in part because it feared it might lose control over top-secret images.
The move marked the first time Ottawa had prevented the sale of a domestic firm to a foreign buyer.
Critics said the proposed sale by MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. would threaten Canadian sovereignty by handing the high-tech Radarsat 2 satellite to a foreign firm.
In a terse two-page letter to Alliant Tech on Tuesday, Industry Minister Jim Prentice said: “I am not satisfied that your investment is likely to be of net benefit to Canada” and gave the firm 30 days to contest the decision.
Prentice’s comments —and the strong backing he earlier received from Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Parliament — indicate that however Alliant Tech proposes to restructure the deal, it will not be allowed to buy the satellite technology.
“I would think it would be very difficult for the government to flip-flop on this issue,” said Scott Brison, a legislator for the opposition Liberal Party.
MDA Chief Executive Daniel Friedman told a parliamentary committee last week that Canadian federal spending on space was not enough to support a company of MDA’s size.