The federal Liberal government has unveiled plans to award a sole-source contract for hundreds of light armoured vehicles to General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, while also promising the London, Ont., company a $650-million loan.
The surprise deal and loan were announced by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan on Friday, only weeks before the federal election, sparking Conservative allegations the Liberals were trying to buy votes and distract from the SNC-Lavalin affair.
While final negotiations are still underway, the government says it plans to spend $3 billion for 360 LAVs as well as associated infrastructure upgrades and testing, which will replace two of the army’s ageing armoured vehicle fleets.
The Defence Department spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said the vehicles the government will be purchasing through the pending deal are different from those GDLS is building as part of a $15-billion deal between Canada and Saudi Arabia.
That deal has caused the company and federal government endless grief since it was brokered in 2014, partly because of criticism about the sale of weapons to the kingdom given its abysmal human-rights record.