Canada seeks quicker deployment of automotive aid

Mon Jan 19, 2009 12:48pm EST
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By Scott Anderson

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian arms of General Motors and Chrysler should wrap up talks with Ottawa quickly on their restructuring plans because a "drop dead" date for agreeing on terms for government aid is fast approaching, Industry Minister Tony Clement said on Monday.

Clement said that February 20 is the deadline for the automakers to come up with a comprehensive plan that would allow them to get government aid.

"We're not going to be rushed into things, if we don't feel that taxpayers' interests are being protected. But one would have thought that we would have been at the conclusion at this phase by now. We are not," Clement told reporters following a breakfast speech in Toronto.

"I guess I am signaling to them: let's get a move on. Let's finish our discussion and dialogue and if you need the money, let's flow the money. If you don't need the money that's fine too, we understand that."

Canada and the Ontario government unveiled an aid package last month that provided C$4 billion ($3.2 billion) in emergency loans to the Canadian arms of the ailing automakers to keep them operating while they restructure.

However, General Motors of Canada and Chrysler Canada have not yet taken advantage of the funds. Ford Motor Co of Canada has not asked for assistance.

The package, announced on December 20, came one day after the U.S. government unveiled a $17.4 billion package to prop up Detroit's ailing auto industry.

Clement said that the Canadian aid issue is complicated, but said in his speech that he was "disappointed" by the slowness of the process.   Continued...

<p>Toyota's cars are reflected on the hood of a Toyota van at its showroom in Tokyo January 16, 2009. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon</p>