June 2, 2009 / 12:10 PM / in 8 years

Ottawa reviewing sale of some assets

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s government is reviewing only some of its holdings this year for possible inclusion in an asset sale as it grapples with a record budget deficit, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Tuesday.

<p>Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 27, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

Flaherty was reacting to a report in the Globe and Mail newspaper on Tuesday that said all of the federal government’s assets were being considered in the review.

The government is depending on billions of dollars from asset sales as part of its plan to re-balance the books by 2013-2014.

The Globe said that the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, Via Rail and the Royal Canadian Mint were among the assets to be reviewed, but Flaherty said the review this year does not cover the CBC.

The Conservative government first announced plans to review its holdings in November last year. In January, the government said the process this year would focus on assets held by the ministries of finance, Indian and northern affairs, natural resources and transport.

CBC forms part of the heritage ministry’s portfolio.

Last week, Ottawa said it planned to seek buyers for the nuclear power business of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

“We want to make sure our Crown assets continue to perform to the benefit of the people of Canada ... but no fire sales and we’re certainly not going to sell anything or offer anything for sale where the market would be depressed in terms of price,” Flaherty told reporters.

Sources cited by the Globe said it was unlikely that the government would spin off “highly iconic elements” such as the CBC or Via Rail any time soon.

The asset review could take four to five years, with about 20 percent to 25 percent of the holdings reviewed each year, the Globe said.

The minority government is under pressure to pare down its debt. Last week Finance Minister Jim Flaherty warned that the Canada’s deficit could be a record C$50 billion ($46 billion) this fiscal year.

($1=$1.08 Canadian)

Reporting by Scott Anderson and Louise Egan; editing by Peter Galloway

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