WRAPUP 2-Canada charts comfortable course to 2015 budget surplus

Tue Feb 11, 2014 5:51pm EST
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By Louise Egan

OTTAWA Feb 11 (Reuters) - Canada's Conservative government looks set to comfortably balance its books in 2015 or even sooner, its latest budget showed on Tuesday, with cuts in spending on the public service more than offsetting a series of modest new expenditures.

The low-key spending plan leaves Prime Minister Stephen Harper well-positioned to offer tax breaks and other initiatives in the runup to an election scheduled for October next year.

"Some people will say this budget is boring," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters ahead of the budget speech. "Boring is good."

The budget shows a deficit of C$2.9 billion ($2.63 billion)in the 2014-15 fiscal year, up from the previous estimate of C$5.5 billion. That balance includes a C$3 billion contingency fund, which in fact reveals an underlying surplus that year.

Flaherty acknowledged the budget would be narrowly balanced this coming year without the contingency fund, but said he preferred to have a "nice clean surplus next year".

The government estimates a bigger-than-expected C$6.4 billion surplus in 2015-16. In the year ending March 31 of this year, the deficit is pegged at C$16.6 billion.

The Conservatives, in power since 2006, plunged into a deep deficit in 2008 as they pumped out stimulus money to deal with the recession after having cut taxes earlier. Previously, the Canadian government had an 11-year string of budget surpluses.   Continued...