Saudis owe Canada $1.8B payment in controversial arms deal
CTVNews.ca with a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Joyce Napier
Published Thursday, December 20, 2018 10:00PM EST
Saudi Arabia still owes Canada $1.84 billion for a shipment of light-armoured vehicles, adding a new layer of uncertainty to the already controversial deal.
An undisclosed number of light-armored vehicles assembled at the General Dynamics plant in London, Ont. were delivered to Saudi Arabia, but the kingdom is taking months to pay up.
The delayed payment is detailed in documents from the Crown agency managing the deal, which show the payment outstanding as of Sept. 30.
The massive $15-billion arms deal has been under intense scrutiny. Critics have called for the federal government to abandon the deal, citing Saudi Arabia’s role in the brutal war in Yemen and the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was critical of the Middle Eastern kingdom. The CIA has concluded that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi’s death, despite the kingdom’s denials.
More than 2,000 jobs at General Dynamics and another 500 suppliers are now at risk. The MP for the area says the deal, struck by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2014 and upheld by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, should’ve never been signed.
“An unreliable customer that is capable of murder and capable of leaving 14 million people in Yemen of starving to death – this is not the kind of customer that we want to deal with as a nation,” said Irene Mathyssen, an NDP MP for London-Fanshawe.
Details of the deal remain secret, but sources tell CTV News the contract is so lopsided that it allows the Saudi government to pull out at any time with no consequence. However, if Canada wants to leave, there could be billions of dollars in penalties.
In a recent sit-down interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV’s Question Period, Trudeau said the federal government is assessing its options on the deal.
“We are engaged with the export permits to try and see if there is a way of no longer exporting these vehicles to Saudi Arabia,” Trudeau said.
The kingdom may be experiencing cash flow issues, particularly when it comes to the crashing prices of oil. According to University of Waterloo political science professor Bessma Momani, wealthy Saudis may already be looking for an escape hatch.
“There is an exodus of capital. And people are taking out their money for fear that the corruption crackdown that the prince has sort of started may in fact come to their door,” Momani told CTV News.