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Economy

Federal government invests $404 million for LAV III upgrades at General Dynamics

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. Liny Lamberink/AM980

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the deal between the federal government and Saudi Arabia was for $15 billion.

The Department of National Defence is investing $404 million in General Dynamics Land Systems in London, for upgrades to its light armoured vehicle fleet.

The newly amended contract announced Friday morning means the defence electronics company will upgrade the LAV III, enhancing the performance and survivability of 141 vehicles and extending the fleet’s life until 2035.

“Our troops deserve the best type of equipment when they do their job,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said during a presentation at the GDLS location on Oxford St.

“This is a proven vehicle, proven [and] tested vehicle in combat. I personally have seen the impact of this vehicle, not only when it comes to conducting patrols, but also when it comes to saving lives, the weapon system that it has on it. And also I’ve seen it protect our troop’s lives.”

Sajjan, who was deployed to Afghanistan three times before taking a role in politics, called the LAV the “backbone” of the Canadian Armed Forces fleet.

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“Our government is committed to making sure we have the right tools and making sure that our troops have all the right number of vehicles, and that’s what this commitment is about.”

The multi-million dollar contract doesn’t mean any new jobs in London, but it will sustain around 250 existing high skilled jobs in advance manufacturing.

GDLS has been the centre of a controversial $15-billion arms deal between the federal government and Saudi Arabia in recent months, signed originally by the Harper government, and drawing criticism from those concerned with human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.

“When… our government looks at any type of deals, the importance of a track record in any nation is extremely important. But as the Prime Minister has said, we honour the commitment of the Canadian government, and the previous government signed an agreement and we will honour that. This is extremely important in how we do business,” Sajjan said.

London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos said London has “all the potential in the world to thrive economically,” and that the deal is a “huge show of confidence” in London, from the federal government.

Sajjan pointed to London as an ideal location for investing in innovation.

“They have a phenomenal talent pool here, within the workforce [and] the engineers, but also within the community, of actually developing that talent. And that is also very critically important, and that’s why work like this in communities like London is extremely important.”

The LAV is a combat vehicle that transports the Canadian infantry on the battlefield.

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The upgrade project is expected to begin in December this year, and will be completed by December 2019.

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