POLITICS

Stephane Dion: Liberals Don't Love Saudi Arms Deal, But Will Let It Stand

02/18/2016 05:10 EST | Updated 02/18/2017 05:12 EST
OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion says the Liberal government does not necessarily approve of Canada's sale of $15 billion worth of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a country with a dismal human rights record.

Dion says the government is simply allowing a previously negotiated contract to stand.

In a rare appearance before the Senate by an elected member of the House of Commons, Dion pointed out that the current government did not approve the sale of the LAV3s, a deal that was negotiated by the Conservatives.

stephane dion

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion speaks in the House of Commons on Tuesday. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

"The government simply refused to cancel a contract that had been given the go-ahead by the previous government; a contract between a private company and Saudi Arabia," Dion said.

"This is an important distinction, because if we would cancel a contract that has been approved, there would probably be stiff penalties that Canadian taxpayers would have to pay."

Dion said doing so would also have weakened the credibility of the Canadian government when it signs other contracts.

Dion reiterated his government's commitment to review future deals, as he criticized Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

"The government simply refused to cancel a contract that had been given the go-ahead by the previous government; a contract between a private company and Saudi Arabia."

The government has faced repeated calls to the cancel the deal between the Saudis and an Ontario company for the vehicles, citing its imprisonment of blogger Raif Badawi and its treatment of women.

Dion answered a range of questions in the 30-minute exchange with senators, including on Russia and Iran.

Dion continued to defend his government's decision to engage diplomatically with them, even if it disagrees with them.

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