December 14, 2008 / 10:58 PM / in 9 years

Canada may assist forestry, mining, minister says

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada will consider special aid to the forestry, mining and other industries in the federal budget due on January 27, though the auto sector remained the top priority, the industry minister said on Sunday.

<p>Federal Minister of Industry Tony Clement speaks at a newly opened Toyota automobile assembly plant in Woodstock, about 130 km (81 miles) southwest of Toronto, Ontario, December 4, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>

“We’ve got a number of industries under distress ... forestry, the mining sector, the extraction sectors, retail,” said Industry Minister Tony Clement in an interview on CTV’s “Question Period” program.

“So we’re talking about the whole kit and caboodle here.”

Clement signaled on Friday Ottawa and the province of Ontario would provide billions of dollars in help to Canada’s auto sector as soon as the U.S. government approves a similar package. Thousands of workers in Ontario are employed by the three Detroit automakers and their parts suppliers.

In the interview on Sunday, the minister said Ottawa and Ontario declared their intention to help the auto industry on Friday, rather than waiting, because of the “see-sawing back and forth in Washington” on an auto industry bailout.

“This was an announcement that had to be done soon because of events in Congress when it came to the auto sector, but ... other industrial sectors, other extraction sectors are on the table for our budget coming out on January 27.”

Clement said he expected Washington to complete an agreement during the next few days.

On Friday, he said a Canadian package would amount to about 20 percent of whatever Washington comes up with, based on Canada’s share of North American production capacity.

Reporting by Frank McGurty; editing by Todd Eastham

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