* March deficit C$6.5 billion
* April-March deficit C$18.3 billion vs year-ago C$21.6 billion
* Final figures for 2012-13 fiscal year due in the Fall
OTTAWA, May 31 (Reuters) - Canada’s Conservative government continued to shrink its budget deficit in March and in the fiscal year ending that month it reported a preliminary shortfall of C$18.3 billion ($17.77 billion) compared with a C$21.6 billion gap a year earlier.
The figures for the 2012-13 fiscal year as a whole are not final and will be adjusted in the Fall with new information, the Department of Finance said in its monthly report released on Friday.
But it said the results were “in line” with its latest forecast of a C$25.9 billion deficit in the period, down from the 2011-12 deficit of C$26.2 billion.
In the month of March, the federal budget deficit narrowed to C$6.5 billion from C$9 billion in the same month of 2012, helped by some one-off factors.
Program expenses fell sharply, down C$3.4 billion or 10.8 percent from a year earlier. The report said the drop partly reflected a March 2012 payment to compensate the province of Quebec for sales tax harmonization as well as costs that month associated with the government’s decision to cut thousands of public sector workers from its payroll as part of its cost-cutting plan.
Monthly revenues fell by C$1.2 billion, or 4.8 percent, with the biggest hit coming from a 9.3 percent drop in personal income tax revenues.
In the 12-month period, revenues grew by C$3.9 billion, or 1.6 percent, while expenses rose by C$2.7 billion, or 1.1. percent. Public debt charges fell by C$2 billion, or 6.5 percent, due to lower interest rates on debt.
The Conservative government has promised to eliminate the deficit, equivalent to about 1.4 percent of gross domestic product, by 2015, ahead of an election scheduled for that year.