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Auto worker Valerie Stades works on a Cadillac model at the General Motors Oshawa assembly plant Aug. 28, 2013.

The union representing about 40,000 auto workers in Canada is urging the federal and Ontario governments to keep their shares in General Motors Co.

Jerry Dias, leader of the new Unifor union, made the case with federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa in a letter sent after the governments announced earlier this week that they were selling about 30 million of their 140.1 million shares in the auto maker. The sale raised about $1.1-billion (U.S.) for the two governments.

"It is essential that we use every tool in the policy tool box to ensure that GM and other auto makers in Canada retain and growth their operations here," Mr. Dias said in the letter.

Governments need to play a key role in helping win future investment commitments by vehicle manufacturers and if the governments hang on to their remaining shares, they will be able to do that, he said.

The federal and Ontario governments contributed $10.8-billion (Canadian) to the chapter 11 bankruptcy bailout of GM that kept the largest Detroit auto maker from being liquidated.

Mr. Flaherty said earlier this week that the investment in GM was always intended to be temporary.

GM has repaid about $1.5-billion worth of loans.

The two governments sold about 35 million shares in the initial public offering of the new GM in November, 2010.