Skip to main content

Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes an infrastructure investment announcement at The Collider Centre at Western University's Advanced Manufacturing Park, in London, Ont., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014.Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press

And now it's $1.6 billion.

That's the new projection for next year's budgetary surplus once the Harper government's $5.8-billion infrastructure announcement has been factored in, the Finance Department said Tuesday.

Canada's surplus forecast for 2015-16 has been shaved by $300 million, lowering it from the $1.9-billion prediction the government published two weeks ago in its fall economic and fiscal update.

The latest projection has been whittled down to just a quarter the size of the $6.4-billion surplus the government predicted for 2015-16 in last spring's budget.

It also means the Conservative government has left fewer surplus scraps for its political rivals to fight over as the country heads into the 2015 election year.

The government announced a revised surplus prediction of $1.9 billion in its fall update on Nov. 12, a drop it said was due to the unexpected fall in oil prices and Ottawa's new, multibillion-dollar tax and benefit package aimed at families with kids.

This week's balance-sheet adjustment came a day after Harper unveiled another multibillion-dollar spending plan: upgrades to federal infrastructure across the country.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who unveiled the plan himself Monday, said the government intended to invest in projects that would create jobs and yield quick results — most of it over the next three years. About $2.8 billion of the total was earmarked to improve historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas.

The updated budgetary figures released Tuesday projects the infrastructure plan to trim surplus predictions by a total of $1.3 billion over the next five years: $300 million in 2015-16; $400 million in 2016-17; $200 million in 2017-18; $200 million in 2018-19; $200 million in 2019-20.

The rest of the infrastructure cash will be spent after 2019-20, the department said.

Harper's announcement faced criticism for recycling old promises, but the government has countered by saying the majority of the cash represents new funds that had not been previously announced.

The only exceptions are a $500-million investment for schools on aboriginal reserves and $80.5 million for the restoration of the Canada Science and Technology Museum, said Finance Department spokeswoman Stephanie Rubec.

The incumbent Conservatives have consistently tried to cast themselves as careful custodians of public finances in a world filled with economic tumult.

When he introduced the fall update Nov. 12, Finance Minister Joe Oliver highlighted how Ottawa had pruned federal program spending for four straight years and he insisted how only the Tories' plans for jobs and growth would lead to prosperity.

Among the government measures is a new family-friendly tax and benefit proposal that would eliminate an estimated $27 billion from public coffers over six years. It also prevented Canada from balancing the books before the end of the current fiscal year.

Critics have zeroed in one particular element of the proposal: the controversial, $2-billion-per-year income-splitting plan for couples with children. They argue the Tories' income-splitting plan would only benefit about 15 per cent of Canadian households.

The income-splitting promise was a main plank in the Conservative's 2011 election platform, although it was strictly contingent on a balanced budget.