Ottawa runs $1.3B surplus in first 10 months of fiscal year, could balance early

OTTAWA – The federal government posted a narrow surplus over the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, suggesting Ottawa could balance the books earlier than expected.

Ottawa ran a $1.3-billion budgetary surplus through the first 10 months of 2014-15, with the help of a $2.2-billion surplus in January, according to the Finance Department’s latest fiscal monitor.

A stronger, year-end financial position would clash with the government, which has told Canadians they will have to wait until 2015-16 before the federal books move into the black.

In his November fiscal update, Finance Minister Joe Oliver projected a $2.9-billion shortfall by the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year, which ends March 31.

Oliver has repeatedly pledged to balance the books in his upcoming 2015-16 election-year, spending plan, which is expected next month.

The government took the unusual step of postponing the release of the spring budget, which is typically presented in February, so it could assess the economic fallout of the oil slump.

In November, the government projected a $1.6-billion surplus for 2015-16, but crude prices have fallen even further since then.

The fiscal monitor, released Friday, said the government’s $1.3-billion surplus so far in 2014-15 compared with a $10-billion deficit posted over the same April-to-January period in 2013-14.

The document says increases in most revenue streams over the first 10 months of 2014-15 pushed total government income up by $7.7 billion or 3.6 per cent.

Over the same time span, it says total program expenses fell $2.8 billion or 1.4 per cent.

Ottawa’s $2.21-billion surplus for January compared with a surplus of nearly $2.22 billion in January 2014.

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