By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, March 6 (Reuters) - The Western Canadian province of Manitoba said on Thursday that it expects to whittle its sixth straight budget deficit down by 17 percent to C$357 million ($325 million) in 2014-15.
The provincial economy, which relies on farming, manufacturing and mining, has been hit hard in recent years by flood-related costs.
Spending is projected to rise 1.5 percent to C$15.1 billion, including increases for health and education. Revenue looks to edge up 1.1 percent to C$14.6 billion. The budget includes a C$150 million favorable adjustment expected from an in-year increase in revenue or decrease in spending.
The left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) government has been in power since 1999, and is led by Premier Greg Selinger. After an unexpected one percentage point increase last year in the Manitoba sales tax to 8 percent damaged public support for the government, this year’s budget had few surprises.
The 2014-15 deficit would be Manitoba’s smallest in four years. The province posted a record-high C$1-billion loss in 2011-12 due to severe spring flooding.
For the current 2013-14 fiscal year, which ends March 31, Manitoba expects a deficit of C$432 million.
Finance Minister Jennifer Howard said the province is on pace to balance its budget by the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Manitoba’s net debt, not including government-owned corporations like Manitoba Hydro, is expected to hit C$17.3 billion on March 31, rising to C$18.6 billion a year later.
Most Canadian provinces have run deficits for several years after the 2008-09 financial crisis slowed the economy.