Saudi deal focus of discussions between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and London, Ont. Mayor Ed Holder

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with London Mayor Ed Holder on the sidelines of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Big City Mayors' Caucus in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Mayor Ed Holder used a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday to stress his concerns over the impact of escalating tensions between Canada and Saudi Arabia on the City of London.

London’s mayor met with Canada’s prime minister on the sidelines of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Big City Mayors’ Caucus in Ottawa. Holder was one of 20 big-city mayors attending the caucus meeting.

A statement from the Office of the Mayor following Holder’s meeting with Trudeau noted that the meeting focused on the $15-billion arms deal between Canada and Saudi Arabia, a contract for light-armoured vehicles (LAV) filled by General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) in London.

“These are important jobs for London, our largest private employer in my city,” Holder told reporters during a scrum following the meeting.

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“When you think of the spin-off jobs as well, so the impact of some 1,800 jobs in London, add another 1,800-2,000 jobs with the suppliers and others who are impacted by this. It’s fairly dramatic if this contract isn’t fulfilled. The prime minister shared the same concerns.”

Holder noted that they also discussed significantly delayed payments by the Saudis over work that’s already been completed as well as human-rights concerns.

“The fundamental issue that we talked about is how important those jobs were to preserve in London and ways that we might work with the federal government in respect to that.”

While human-rights concerns have prompted objection to the contract since it was first announced under the previous Conservative government, criticism has grown significantly since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in October.

However, the Canadian arm of GDLS previously noted that the federal government would incur “billions of dollars of liability” if it were to scrap the agreement.

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