Canada revises lower last year's budget deficit

Canada’s fiscal 2013-2014 budget deficit was less than one-third of an original estimate announced in February, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.

The prime minister told a business audience in Brampton, Ontario that the figure has been revised downward to Can$5.2 billion (US$4.7 billion).

Thus Canada is likely to also beat its budget projections for this year and next. But Harper did not specify how much bigger this year’s much-anticipated surplus could be.

After coming to power in 2006, the Conservatives posted two back-to-back budget surpluses before the global recession hit and the government racked up a record deficit.

A deficit of Can$2.9 billion (US$2.6 billion) was forecast in the February budget for fiscal 2014-2015, followed by a Can$6.9 billion (US$6.3 billion) surplus the following fiscal year.

The government will now revise those figures in its upcoming fall fiscal update, said a finance official.

Harper must defend his Tory parliamentary majority next year and hopes to campaign as leader of the first G7 nation to balance its books since the global slump.

Officials have hinted that surplus government funds would be returned to Canadians in the form of tax breaks, or used to pay down the national debt.