NORMAN DE BONO
If the contract to supply Saudi Arabia with London-built military vehicles were cancelled, the impact would also be deeply felt in the hundreds of suppliers that feed General Dynamics and its Oxford Street East factory.
Armatec Survivabilty in Dorchester supplies most of the seats to the General Dynamics Land Systems Canada armoured vehicles going to the Middle East, and a “substantial number” of its workers would lose their jobs if it’s cancelled, said Rod Flick, manager of business development at Armatec.
“We’re putting seats in those vehicles. It would have a big impact,” said Flick, adding it now employs just over 100.
GDLS has said its suppliers nationwide — including 240 in the London region alone — employ 13,500 people directly or indirectly.
“There are other ways Canada can exert pressure than to cancel this. The Saudis will just go and buy vehicles from somewhere else,” Flick said.
Flick will be in Ottawa this week pressing Global Affairs Canada not to cancel the deal, he added.
Flick has also met with several MPs and MPPs, making the case to defend the agreement.
At Abuma Manufacturing on Admiral Drive in London, about half its business is tied to General Dynamics and cancelling the contract would be “a real blow” to its 26 employees, said president Ben Whitney, who is also head of its sister plant, Armo-Tool. Abuma makes parts for GDLS’s light armoured vehicles.
“I am extremely concerned., It would make things very difficult for us. It would put us in a difficult position,” said Whitney.
“It would be a blow, a real blow.”
Armo-Tool bought Abuma in May and would keep it afloat by sharing work, but without that partnership, Abuma would shut down if the Saudi deal is cancelled, he added.
“When this deal was struck, it was because the Saudis were seen as a stable partner in that region. If we want to engage in that region, there is no perfect democracy there. We can engage and build relationships or we can cancel deals and be seen as not reliable,” said Whitney.
“It is tough. Last week, we made a donation to the Salvation Army and now about half our people may need them. It is a tough situation.”
CANADA’S SAUDI ARMS DEAL: A CHRONOLOGY
The federal government under the Stephen Harper-led Conservatives announce the deal to supply light armoured military vehicles to Saudi Arabia, with London defence giant General Dynamics Land Systems Canada building the vehicles for a federal crown corporation, the Canadian Commercial Corp., selling the equipment to the desert kingdom.
The Conservatives, under fire from human rights critics for selling arms to Saudi Arabia despite its human rights abuses, lose the general election to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.
The Liberals green-light the deal, despite growing calls to rescind it in light of Saudi Arabian political and human rights abuses, including in neighbouring Yemen.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion quietly approves export permits covering most of the deal, as criticism mounts of Canada doing arms business with Saudi Arabia.
Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist, is killed at the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Suspicion instantly rises that the killing was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The killing increases heat on Ottawa over its Saudi arms deal.
After first denying Khashoggi was killed, Saudi Arabia admits his slaying was “premeditated” and orders an investigation.
Trudeau, facing new pressure to scuttle the Saudi deal in light of Khashoggi’s murder, says it would cost $1 billion to scrap the deal. The Liberals say they’re reviewing the export permits for the deal.
Trudeau says publicly for the first time that the Liberals are looking for a way out of the Saudi deal, prompting heightened worry and alarm in London.
GDLS: BY THE NUMBERS
1,850: Employees in London
13,500: Jobs supported among its suppliers
500: Suppliers nationwide
240: Suppliers in London region