(Adds details, opposition party reaction)
By Cameron French
TORONTO, April 11 The Ontario government said on
Friday it plans to sell its stake in General Motors Co
over the next year or so and will consider other options to
raise funds, including the sale of real estate and
The announcement, unveiled by Finance Minister Charles Sousa
at a Toronto business luncheon, comes as Ontario's minority
Liberal government prepares to unveil a budget that could throw
the Canadian province into a summer election.
Sousa said the government will act when the market permits
it to unload the GM stake. It announced plans in September to
sell some of its stock, which it said then would leave it with
about 36.7 million common shares and about 5.4 million preferred
The stock was acquired when the Canadian and Ontario
governments contributed more than C$10 billion ($9.13 billion)
to a bailout to keep GM afloat.
The province will also sell the headquarters of provincial
liquor monopoly LCBO and will consider selling other real estate
assets, including the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) building.
Both buildings are on valuable real estate in downtown Toronto.
"We are going to evaluate the best use of these assets as
well as the maximum potential of the respective crown business,"
Sousa said. Proceeds will go into a fund to pay for
infrastructure projects across the province.
TD CEO TO HEAD COMMITTEE
Looking farther out, Sousa said the province has appointed a
committee led by Chief Executive Ed Clark of Toronto-Dominion
Bank to examine other ways to wring money out of
government-owned assets such as the LCBO, OPG and Hydro One, the
operator of the province's electricity grid.
Sousa said the group will consider options that could
include corporate reorganization, acquisitions, mergers and
Sousa did not rule out outright sales, but said the council
will give preference to owning rather than selling core assets.
"We are going to determine what business the government
should be owning and what it shouldn't," he said.
Sousa said options could include bringing Ontario's pension
system in to take ownership positions in government-owned
The plan will be part of the 2014-15 budget, which Sousa
plans to unveil over the next few weeks.
The center-left Liberals have been in power for 10 years in
Canada's most populous province, home to most of its banks and a
large part of its manufacturing sector.
But with only 48 of the 107 seats in the Ontario
legislature, the party needs support from at least one other
party to pass the budget and avoid triggering an election.
The left-leaning New Democratic Party supported last year's
budget and will be key to this year's version passing, as the
right-leaning Progressive Conservatives are unlikely to support
Speaking to reporters after the announcement, Peter Tabuns,
an NDP member of the provincial legislature, said he believed
Sousa was setting the stage for privatization of provincial
"We will not support privatization; not part of our
program," he said.
The provincial government is looking to fund expanded subway
and other rail transit in the Greater Toronto Area, as well as
highway construction, among other initiatives.
TD's Clark said last year that he will step down from his
post in November. TD is Canada's second-largest bank by market
($1 = 1.0954 Canadian Dollars)
(Additional reporting by Solarina Ho; Editing by Jeffrey
Hodgson and Dan Grebler)