November 14, 2008 / 12:02 AM / in 9 years

Canada mulls selling CN Tower to balance books

<p>The CN Tower is silhouetted against the setting sun in this August 14, 2003 file photo.Andrew Wallace</p>

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada could slap a For Sale sign on Toronto's needle-like CN Tower and other national assets as a way to ease pressure on the federal budget in the midst of the financial crisis, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Thursday.

Flaherty mentioned the landmark, until recently billed as the world's tallest free-standing structure, as one property that could be auctioned off so that Ottawa can remain in the black.

When asked by reporters if the building was on the block, he quipped: "Do you want to buy it?"

He declined to name a price.

Asset sales are one way of cutting a deficit or helping to generate a small surplus, he said.

"If that review shows that there are some assets that should be sold, then we'll go ahead."

Canada has routinely posted annual budget surpluses since the 1990s, the only G7 industrialized nation to do so, but Flaherty has warned that the country could dip into the red as the world grapples with the financial meltdown.

Many Canadians would be surprised to learn that the government owns the CN Tower and numerous other assets on their behalf, Flaherty said.

The 553 meter (1,814 foot) tower, easily the dominant feature on the Toronto skyline, was the tallest structure until last year, when it was surpassed by the Burj Dubai.

Ottawa owns a variety of landmark properties across the country through Canada Lands Co., as well as other assets, including mortgage insurer Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp and an interest in the Hibernia oil project off the Newfoundland coast.

Flaherty ruled out selling national television and radio network Canadian Broadcasting Corp, which accounts for about C$1 billion ($820 million) of the federal budget every year.

($=$1.21 Canadian)

Reporting by Jeffrey Jones and Richard Valdmanis; editing by Rob Wilson

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