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Minister of Finance Bill Morneau rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 24, 2018.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

The federal Liberal government ran a $2.8-billion surplus in February and appears to be on track to close out the 2017-18 fiscal year with a smaller deficit than projected.

With just one month left before fiscal year-end, new Finance Department figures released Friday show the 2017-18 deficit stood at $5.6-billion. That compares with an $11.5-billion deficit reported during the same 11-month period one year earlier.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s February budget had estimated that the bottom line for 2017-18 would come in at $19.4-billion. The final deficit figure for the previous year, 2016-17, was $17.8-billion.

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The Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report on Monday that estimated the 2017-18 deficit would come in at $18.8-billion, but that the combined deficits for the next two years would be about $8-billion larger than projected in the budget.

The fiscal numbers for March can be volatile due to fiscal year-end accounting issues. Government departments may also rush to spend amounts that have already been approved, a practice derisively referred to as March madness.

The official year-end figures are not released until the fall.

Last year the government said the March, 2017, budget deficit was $10.7-billion, representing about half of the deficit for the entire 2016-17 fiscal year.

This week the CBC reported that Shared Services Canada made an urgent order for 31,000 smartphones with the requirement that the products are shipped and billed before March 31, the end of the current fiscal year.

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