On Valentine’s Day this year, Canada was given the perfect gift: a multi-billion-dollar defence contract. General Dynamics Land Systems — Canada (GDLS–C) was awarded a massive contract, reportedly worth at least $10 billion US, to supply light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
It is being called the “largest manufacturing export win in Canada’s history” and was announced in London, Ont., by Minister of International Trade Ed Fast. It is a 14-year contract for vehicles as well as associated training and support services. It is supposed to create more than 3,000 jobs each year in Canada, largely benefitting Southern Ontario, which will account for about 40 per cent of the supply base.
Members of the Canadian manufacturing and exporting businesses in Canada praised the government for landing this monumental deal.
“This is an Olympic win for Canada and for Canadian manufacturers. It shows how great people in truly innovative companies like GDLS can compete internationally and bring home the gold,” said Jayson Myers, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. “Like all victories, it’s been the result of a team effort in which the government has played a crucial role. All Canadians should be proud of this record achievement.”
The number of vehicles that will be supplied was not released, but the deal could be worth up to $13 billion dollars in the long run.
Since the announcement, reports of human rights concerns have spread throughout the media. Critics are saying that Saudi Arabia, notorious for harsh suppression of political dissent and women’s rights, seems hardly the nation Canada should be supplying military equipment to. In 2014, a report by Human Rights Watch stated that Saudi Arabia has stepped up arrest, trials, and convictions of peaceful protestors.
“As in past years, authorities subjected thousands of people to unfair trials and arbitrary detention. In 2013, courts convicted seven human rights defenders and others for peaceful expression or assembly demanding political and human rights reforms,” said the report.
The state of women’s rights in the country is also a cause for concern. “Authorities continued to violate the rights of 9 million Saudi women and girls and 9 million foreign workers,” said the report.
Despite these concerns, the hefty contract is still considered a major win for Canada as it will create jobs for Canadian workers.
“This is a testament to the skills and quality of work that exist in Canada today,” Danny Deep, vice-president of GDLS–C, said of the contract. “This latest contract confirms our position as a leading armoured vehicle designer and manufacturer in the world and a key industrial capability in Canada.”
The Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), a federal Crown corporation that is mandated to facilitate international trade on behalf of Canadian industry, helped the GDLS–C secure the contract. In 2012–2013, the CCC was active in over 72 countries on behalf of more than 200 Canadian companies, and secured one billion dollars in contracts.
The armoured vehicle contract comes as a result of the Canadian government’s focus on creating jobs and opportunities for Canadian workers, said Minister of International Trade Ed Fast. “Our government will continue to support our exporters and manufacturers to create jobs, as part of our government’s most ambitious pro-trade, pro-export plan in Canadian history,” he said.