* Flaherty says fire sale is not in taxpayers' interest
* Ontario official says stake will be sold for best return
* Canada and Ontario became GM shareholders in 2009 bailout
* CAW union urges govt's to hold onto stakes
VICTORIA, British Columbia, Nov 30 Canada has no
immediate plans to sell its shares in General Motors Co,
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Friday, and the province
of Ontario said it would offload its GM stake only when it can
get the "best possible return" for taxpayers.
Both were responding to a report in the Globe and Mail
newspaper on Friday that said Ontario's finance minister
believed it was time for both the Canadian and Ontario
governments to shed their GM shares.
"I don't think at this time it would be in our interest, the
taxpayers of Canada, to engage in a fire sale of those shares,
and I don't intend to do it right now," Flaherty told reporters
in Victoria, British Columbia.
The two governments became shareholders of GM in 2009 when
they contributed a combined C$10.8 billion ($10.89 billion) to a
bailout to keep GM afloat. The U.S. government provided about
Canada and Ontario's combined 9 percent stake, made up of
around 140 million common shares and 16.1 million preferred
shares, was worth C$3.5 billion at the end of September.
"I was in the private sector for many years. I wasn't in the
habit of selling stocks at half their price," Flaherty said.
Separately, Aly Vitunski, a spokeswoman for Ontario Finance
Minister Dwight Duncan, said Ontario will sell its GM shares
"when the time and circumstances are appropriate and in a
judicious manner to ensure that Ontarians receive the best
possible return on their investment".
The Globe had quoted Duncan as saying that "the sooner we're
out of the stock the better".
Selling the stock would give an immediate boost to the
coffers of both governments, which are both trying to reduce
their budget deficits, the newspaper said. That is because the
book value of the shares on the government's books is much lower
than the current share price.
The Canadian Auto Workers union, which represents about
61,000 workers in the country's auto industry, urged the
governments to hold on to their stakes, saying they could use
them as leverage to try to get a larger GM production footprint
in Canada in future.
"This industry's presence in Ontario is too important to
Ontario's economic and fiscal health for government not to play
a central role," CAW president Ken Lewenza said in a statement.
Flaherty said he has had "continuing discussions" on the
subject of the GM stake with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy