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Politics Federal finances in surplus so far this year, in spite of deficit forecast

Federal finances remain in surplus five months into the fiscal year, even though the most recent budget projected an $18.1-billion deficit.

The latest monthly fiscal monitor report from the Finance Department shows Ottawa ran a $1.9-billion deficit in August, but remains in the black for the fiscal year that started April 1.

Finance spokesperson Jack Aubry said the monthly tracking results “are broadly in line” with the deficit projection in the 2018 budget.

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“We will provide an updated outlook on Nov. 21 in the fall statement,” he said.

The $2.6-billion surplus for the year so far represents an improvement over the $2.9-billion deficit that had accumulated over the same five-month period one year earlier.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau revealed the date of his fall update this week. The update will be the government’s next opportunity to inform Canadians about whether or not Ottawa is on track to beat the February budget projection of an $18.1-billion deficit for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The Finance Department announced last week that the federal deficit was $19-billion for the 2017-18 fiscal year. A report this week from the parliamentary budget officer projected that this year’s deficit will come in higher, at $19.4-billion for 2018-19, before rising again to $21.3-billion in 2019-20.

The Liberal Party ran on a campaign of running short-term deficits that would not exceed $10-billion and that the books would be balanced by 2019. In government, the Liberals have repeatedly exceeded those targets and Mr. Morneau has not announced a timeline for erasing the deficit.

A recent Nanos survey conducted for The Globe and Mail found that a majority of Canadians say balancing the federal budget is more important than investing in government programs.

Friday’s Finance Department report said federal revenues are up $9.9-billion or 8 per cent over the first five months of the year. Program expenses are up $3.5-billion or 2.9 per cent, while public debt charges were up $1-billion or 10.9 per cent due to higher interest rates.

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