Canada unveils plan to help auto industry

Sat Dec 20, 2008 7:26pm EST
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By Frank McGurty

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada will follow the United States by providing C$4 billion ($3.3 billion) in emergency loans to the Canadian arms of Detroit's ailing automakers to keep them operating while they restructure their businesses, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Saturday.

The package, announced by Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, comes a day after the White House unveiled a $17.4 billion package to shore up Detroit's auto industry.

Harper also announced two new federal measures to support the overall industry -- one to benefit automotive suppliers and a second to help consumers get credit to buy cars.

"There are literally across the country hundreds of thousands if not millions of potentially affected families by the distress of this industry," Harper said at a joint news conference.

"And we are obviously making sure at this Christmas time that, within the confines of our responsibility for taxpayer money, that we are also going to look after their interest."

A collapse of the Detroit Three automakers would put nearly 600,000 Canadians out of work within five years, most of them in Ontario, according to a recent report by provincial advisory panel.

Under the plan, the federal government will provide C$2.7 billion in short-term loans and Ontario C$1.3 billion.

General Motors of Canada Ltd is eligible for loans of up to $C3 billion and Chrysler Canada Inc for up to C$1 billion. The Canadian arm of Ford Motor has not asked for immediate assistance, the Industry Ministry said.   Continued...

<p>Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper poses for a picture in his office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, after taping a televised statement to the country, December 3, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>