TORONTO (AP) _ The Canadian Auto Workers union called a strike against Ford Motor Co. of Canada on Friday after negotiators decided they could not meet a midnight deadline for settling all the issues.

''At midnight tonight, we will be commencing the first strike we have had against Ford of Canada since 1976,'' CAW President Robert White said late Friday.

''We still have a very significant distance between the two positions,'' Don MacKenzie, Ford's chief negotiator, told reporters as discussions broke off for the day at a downtown Toronto hotel.

Despite the strike announcement, both sides said talks would resume Saturday.

Earlier Friday, union and company officials had agreed communication was good and that work was progressing toward a new contract. But White had acknowledged it was virtually impossible to get everything done by the midnight Friday strike deadline.

''It would take a miracle to get all the work that has to be done finished before midnight,'' he had said.

Up to 12,800 workers are expected to walk off the job at nine plants and two offices in Ontario. The company has two plants in Oakville, five in Windsor, one in St. Thomas and one in Niagara Falls.

However, the strike won't mean anything in terms of production until Monday because Canadian Ford plants do not operate on the weekend.

In Detroit, the United Auto Workers union and General Motors Corp. agreed to extend their national labor contract Friday, hours before the same midnight strike deadline as in Canada, local union leaders said.

''They're going to negotiate through the weekend,'' said Charlie Gledhill, acting president of UAW 549 at GM's metal stamping plant in Mansfield, Ohio. ''We're not going to walk out tonight.''

Those talks recessed early Saturday and were expected to continue later in the day.

In both countries, the unions target a single company in their talks in hopes of fashioning a pattern contract for workers at other automakers.

White said his union's decision to target Ford instead of General Motors like his counterparts in the United States has proved to be the correct move. He said the CAW now has the full attention of Ford and its top officials. If the Canadian union had decided to strike GM, the efforts and attention of company officials would be focused on the U.S. negotiations.

The CAW has a $34 million strike fund to support a walkout.

White said earlier in the day that Ford had not made a new economic proposal since the first one put on the table a few days ago, which the union found unacceptable. He said the CAW had presented Ford with a counterproposal early Friday and that Ford officials went off to calculate the numbers.

Ford Canada spokesman Jim Hartford confirmed that, but said he did not know how long it would take Ford to work out the cost of the union proposal.

Neither side offered details of the proposals. Both sides had indicated progress had been made in some areas.

After announcing the strike late Friday, White said the tough issues were job security, inflation, and time off. ''Ford is balking at putting enough economics on the table to get an agreement,'' he said.

The Canadian branch of the American car giant is suffering from flagging sales, down 6.4 percent in August from a year ago, according to Hartford.