Canada has no immediate plans to sell its stake in General Motors Co. , Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Wednesday following news the U.S. Treasury will sell its entire stake in GM over 15 months, but he said the stake will be sold eventually.
“We’ve always been clear about two things. One, that we will not have a fire sale – we will not sell the shares without getting the best value we can for Canadian taxpayers – and secondly, that we are a Conservative government. We are not interested in the long term in being shareholders in private corporations,” Mr. Flaherty told reporters in Burlington, Ont.
“Over time we do intend to divest. On the timing, I’ll have to get back to you.”
Canada’s federal government and the province of Ontario became shareholders of GM in 2009, when they contributed a combined $10.8-billion to a bailout to keep GM afloat. The U.S. government provided about $50-billion (U.S.).
Canada and Ontario’s combined 9-per-cent stake, made up of around 140 million common shares and 16.1 million preferred shares, was worth $3.5-billion (Canadian) at the end of September.
GM said on Wednesday it will buy back 200 million of its shares from the U.S. Treasury, which intends to sell the rest of its GM stake over the next 15 months, bringing to an end ownership that led to the nickname “Government Motors.”
Mr. Flaherty said he spoke Wednesday morning with the chairman of General Motors, Dan Akerson, to discuss the sale.
“It is something we will now consider,” he said.
Mr. Flaherty also addressed a debate over Canada’s public pension plan, the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), saying that at some point it may be appropriate to increase CPP contributions, but that now was not the time because the economy was not strong enough.
He declined to comment on the controversy surrounding Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney’s interaction with members of the opposition Liberal Party.
Mr. Carney, who will become governor of the Bank of England in July, has been under fire after details emerged about Liberal efforts earlier this year to woo him to run for the leadership of the party, which was once dominant but is now Canada’s third-place party “I’ve spoken with to the governor, I really don’t have any comment on the issue right now. I imagine he, at some point, might be willing to respond,” Mr. Flaherty said.
Bank of Canada spokesman Jeremy Harrison said no statement from Mr. Carney was imminent: “The bank currently has no media activities planned for the governor over the next few weeks of the Christmas holidays. The governor has a regularly scheduled press conference on 23 January, in support of the MPR (Monetary Policy Report).”