From high-tech firms to the strapped automakers, Ontario will lend billions of dollars to promote and protect job growth in harsh economic times, Premier Dalton McGuinty said yesterday.

Eight Ontario high-tech ventures will receive $500,000 each in government loans to promote green job creation, McGuinty announced yesterday at his first news conference of the year.

The loans will flow to the ventures as part of Ontario’s Investment Accelerator Fund, a $29-million fund created three years ago to help boost high-tech firms into the global marketplace.

“We are laying the foundation for the Ontario economy of tomorrow,” McGuinty said at a news conference at Centennial College’s applied research and innovation centre in Scarborough.

“These are cases if they didn’t get the money from us, they wouldn’t get it from anyone else,” he said.

Also yesterday, McGuinty reaffirmed his commitment to loaning the automakers money.

The Canadian arms of Chrysler and General Motors will get up to $4 billion in loans from the federal and Ontario govern­ments. Bleak sales figures this week show sales plummeted by 21.2 per cent, or 25,000 vehicles, in December from the same time last year.

The firms receiving money are Toronto’s REGEN Energy Inc., Echologics Engineering Inc., Kneebone Inc., Nulogy Corp., Skymeter Corp. and Sysomos Inc.; and Hamilton’s C2C Link Corp. Ottawa’s IPeak Networks Inc. will also get loans.