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Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Nov. 21, 2012. Economists believe Mr. Flaherty has reason for optimism to meet his 2015 budget goals.CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

The federal government ran a deficit of $1.85-billion in November but eight months into the fiscal year, the size of the federal deficit is coming in smaller than last year.

From April through November, the federal deficit for the 2012-13 fiscal year now stands at $12.4-billion, compared to a deficit of $15.5-billion over the same eight month period a year earlier.

However November's $1.9-billion deficit was larger than the $1.6-billion deficit posted in November 2011. Private sector economists and the Bank of Canada have all pointed out that 2012 ended with slower than expected economic growth.

The deficit for 2011-12 was $26.2-billion. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's March 2012 budget projected that the size of the deficit would shrink to $21.1-billion in 2012-13. Then in his November 13 fiscal update, he revised that figure in response to forecasts for slower-than-expected growth. The November update projected a $26-billion deficit.

With only four months left in the fiscal year, the numbers suggest that more recent target could be beat. However sometimes large expenses are booked at the end of the fiscal year, meaning monthly deficit trends can't necessarily be extrapolated.

Mr. Flaherty has said the government wants to erase the deficit completely by the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Friday's fiscal monitor also outlines increases and decreases in spending and revenue for specific areas.

Over the first eight months of the year, total revenues are at $161.7-billion, a 3.1 per cent increase. That includes a 3.6 per cent increase in personal income tax revenues, a 5.4 per cent increase in corporate tax revenues, a 2.5 per cent increase in Goods and Services Tax revenues and a 7.4 per cent increase in Employment Insurance premiums.

On the spending side from April to November, the cost of elderly benefits are up 6.2 per cent, spending on Employment Insurance benefits is down 3.4 per cent, and transfers to the provinces continue to rise at promised levels of six per cent for health (6.2 per cent so far this year) and three per cent for the Canada Social Transfer.

Total program expenses are up two per cent so far this year, while low interest rates are helping Ottawa as public debt charges are down six per cent.

Total expenses for the federal government - $174.1-billion over the first eight months - are up one per cent this year.

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