December 2, 2008 / 8:15 PM / 9 years ago

Canadian auto aid would likely coincide with U.S.

TORONTO (Reuters) - A decision on whether to give emergency aid to the Canadian auto industry will likely be timed to coincide with a similar decision by Washington, Industry Minister Tony Clement said on Tuesday.

“I think the whole thing is converging around the same time (as in U.S.),” Clement told reporters.

“The (U.S.) plan is before Congress now, they’re going to begin their debate next week. That fits in quite nicely with our demands to see some plans by Friday,” he said.

Ottawa and the Ontario provincial government named James Arnett, a high-profile lawyer with corporate restructuring experience, as a special adviser on the auto sector late on Monday.

The appointment of Arnett comes just ahead of Friday’s deadline for the Canadian arms of Detroit’s Big Three -- General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co, and Chrysler -- to present business plans to Ottawa and Toronto and make their case for government aid.

The distressed companies began submitting plans to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday as they seek a $25 billion bailout. Their plea for aid will be scrutinized in committee hearings in the Senate on Thursday and by the House of Representatives on Friday morning.

In Canada, any help for the industry could be delayed by the political crisis sweeping through Ottawa. Three opposition parties have joined forces and are threatening to defeat the minority Conservative government at the first opportunity.

The turmoil could result in a temporary suspension of Parliament, the replacement of the government by an opposition coalition or a snap election -- each scenario with the potential to delay any new spending plan for the auto sector.

Clement said Arnett will be key to helping the federal and provincial governments decide what action to take.

Arnett advised Ontario on the steel industry from 2004 to 2006, which included the restructuring of Stelco Inc.

He was also president and chief executive of beer giant Molson Inc from 1997 to 2000, where he led the restructuring of that company.

“Taxpayers deserve to know that, if we do indeed move forward, solid due diligence has been done and will result in a transformed auto industry with the jobs and prosperity that Ontarians want and deserve,” said Michael Bryant, Ontario’s industry minister.

No formal figure has been announced on the amount of aid the struggling automakers are seeking in Canada.

The GM, Ford and Chrysler have about 14 to 15 percent of their manufacturing capacity in Canada, so some analysts have suggested it would make sense for Canada to offer about 15 percent of what the U.S. pledges.

($1=$1.25 Canadian)

Reporting by John McCrank and Louise Egan; editing by Rob Wilson

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