OTTAWA — The federal government posted a small deficit in its latest fiscal year, in line with projections in its spring budget as personal and corporate income tax revenue fell in March.
The $2-billion deficit for fiscal 2015-16, based on preliminary estimates from the Finance Department, comes before any year-end adjustments as well as a $3.7-billion commitment to benefits for veterans.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau. The Finance Department estimates a $2-billion deficit for the fiscal year that just ended. (Canadian Press photo)
The spring budget had projected a $5.4 billion deficit for the year.
Final results are expected to be released in the fall, but the Finance Department said the outcome was "broadly in line" with what was projected in the budget.
The figures come amid an ongoing debate in Ottawa about whether the Conservatives left the Liberals with a deficit after the election last fall.
The Conservatives have said the government was on track for a small surplus in fiscal 2015-16, which ended in March, while the Liberals have argued that they inherited a deficit.
Harper-era Finance Minister Joe Oliver had forecast a small surplus for the 2015-16 fiscal year. The Finance Department now estimates a $2-billion deficit. (Canadian Press photo)
In their spring budget, the Liberals announced plans for a $29.4-billion deficit for the 2016-17 fiscal year with billions being spent to help boost economic growth.
For March, the government posted a $9.4-billion deficit compared with a deficit of $3 billion in the same month last year.
The shortfall came as revenue fell $5 billion to $24.1 billion. Personal income tax revenue fell by $1.1 billion or 9.4 per cent and corporate income tax revenue fell by $2.1 billion or 37.3 per cent. Excise taxes and duties gained $500 million or 15.0 per cent.
Program spending increased by $1.3 billion to $31.5 billion, while public debt charges increased $100 million.
For the full year, government revenue totalled $289.6 billion, up $10.6 billion from a year ago, while program spending was $266.0 billion, up $16.6 billion.
Public debt charges for the year were down $1.1 billion at $25.5 billion.