Canada's sale of its remaining shares of General Motors closes the books on government ownership in the North American auto industry. After six years, it's officially the end of Government Motors.
Canada follows the Ontario provincial and U.S. federal governments in selling off direct stakes in GM. Earlier, Canada and the U.S. sold their equity in what is now FCA US.
Certainly, the governmental bodies and their respective taxpayers lost some money on the rescue. But it was far less than what the cost to them and the North American economy would have been if the automakers had been allowed to fail in 2009.
The stain of bankruptcy remains on both automakers, but that will fade with time and continued hard work by their employees.
For all its faults, the governments' intervention worked. Critics' worst fears of the deal did not materialize.
Neither government directly intervened in operations once the automakers emerged from bankruptcy. The equity holdings did not devolve into long-term state ownership.
Elsewhere, governments fully or partially own automakers. From France's stake in Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen and the German state of Lower Saxony's share of Volkswagen AG to provincial and city governments' ownership of various Chinese automakers, it's a way to retain manufacturing and jobs within those countries.
Ironically, the timing of Canada's sell-off, which was scheduled to close after press time last week, coincides with France's enlarging its stake in Renault to retain effective control of the company.
U.S. and Canadian taxpayers have a powerful interest in the long-term health of their domestic auto industries. But they are better off without a direct equity stake in individual automakers that may require additional protection and investment down the road.
The North American experiment in government-owned automakers was a double success. The automakers survived as competitive entities. And the governments successfully extracted themselves as planned.