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Industry Minister Jim Prentice rejected the sale of MDA to a U.S. firm earlier this month. ((MARKETWIRE PHOTO/Canadian Space Agency))

A top executive with MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates says the company wants a chance to convince Ottawa of the benefits to Canada of the sale of its space division to U.S.-based Alliant Techsystems Inc.

Industry Minister Jim Prentice has blocked the $1.3-billion sale amid outcry the proposed deal could threaten high-paying jobs and Canada's ability to defend its Arctic sovereignty.

Paul Cooper, vice-president for strategic development at MDA, says his company has yet to make its case to the government.

Cooper dismissed the anti-sale argument that centres on control of Canada's taxpayer-subsidized Radarsat 2, a satellite critics say is crucial to protecting the Arctic.

"We find the whole terms of reference of that discussion to be frankly irrelevant, distracting and ludicrous," Cooper said Tuesday at a conference organized by the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute. "The operation centre for the satellite is actually located within the Canadian Space Agency building (near Montreal)."

Cooper said MDA has not had formal discussions with Industry Canada or any government representatives, although Ottawa has been talking to  prospective buyer Alliant.

"One goal MDA has at the moment is to participate in the government's formal process for determining the net benefit to Canada," Cooper said. "To date, MDA, one of the key stakeholders in the transaction, has not engaged in any kind of dialogue with the government and we very much would like the opportunity to present our case."

Cooper also told reporters that having access to the U.S. space market will provide "excellent growth prospects" and "the company's employees will have a bright future."

Cooper noted MDA employees have taken out a newspaper advertisement supporting the sale. In addition to Radarsat 2, MDA built the Canadarm and the Dextre space robot.

Ken Ashworth, a Canadian aerospace engineer who worked on the Canadarm program, pointed out in an interview that U.S. laws limit the space-related information which can be shared with "aliens."

Canadians working for an American company on Radarsat 2 might be considered aliens or non-Americans.

"The law would restrict what the American engineers could share with Canada," Ashworth said. "We have to ensure in this environment, if a U.S. company acquires MDA, that we are able to benefit as Canadians."

MDA is also the prime contractor in the construction of the small Canadian meteorological station on board the Phoenix Mars Lander, which is due to enter the Martian atmosphere on May 25.

Guy Bujold, the president of the Canadian Space Agency, also told the conference it is up to the industry to bring forward ideas to the government so it can make more investments in space.

"I'm convinced that if you bring those ideas forward within the context of a science and technology strategy, there's reason to believe the government will make the investments that are necessary."