OTTAWA – The sudden deterioration in the Saudi-Canadian relationship is likely grabbing the attention of people in the city of London, Ont., more than anywhere else in the country.
The city’s General Dynamics Land Systems plant has been providing light armoured vehicles to Saudi security forces, thanks to a $15-billion contract signed by the Canadian government in 2014.
Jim Reid, a union leader who represents nearly 500 workers at the London facility, says the dispute has created concerns in a community where General Dynamics directly employs 2,000 people and is the “last big show” following the recent closures of other major industrial employers in the region.
Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia said it would freeze new trade and investment deals with Canada, expel Ottawa’s ambassador and recall its own envoy.
The moves were in retaliation to a Canadian government tweet that expressed concerns about the arrests of activists in the Saudi kingdom.
Some fear Saudi Arabia’s actions could jeopardize Canada’s controversial, multibillion-dollar arms deal with the Middle Eastern country, described by the previous federal Conservative government as the largest advanced manufacturing export contract in Canadian history.