Canada auto plan expected to be unveiled Saturday

Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:52pm EST
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper will unveil an aid package for Canada's auto industry on Saturday, responding to Washington's move to provide U.S.-based automakers with $17.4 billion in emergency funding.

The Canadian package could amount to several billion dollars. The governments of Canada and the province of Ontario have said they would provide an amount proportionate to the automakers' footprint in Canada, estimated at about 20 percent of North American production capacity.

Harper views the U.S. aid package as "a very positive development," his spokesman said on Friday.

The spokesman declined to give more details of what Harper would announce on Saturday. The prime minister will appear with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Eddie Francis, mayor of Windsor, Ontario, across the border from Detroit, said he spoke to Harper last Friday about the crisis in the auto industry.

"He left me with the impression that they were on top of it and I walked away very reassured that they understood the significance of this industry to the economy," he said.

About 45,000 jobs in Windsor are tied directly to the auto industry.

"Our lifeline is extended today -- we are not out of the woods yet -- but what it means is that this industry has bought 90 days and our communities have bought 90 days," he said.   Continued...

<p>Auto mechanic Paul Cook works on a customer's Ford Escape SUV in the service department of a Ford car dealership in Warren, Michigan December 18, 2008. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook</p>