The federal treasury has reported its biggest monthly surplus since the recession, suggesting that Ottawa will handily beat the current fiscal year's deficit projection the government released in last month's budget.
The Department of Finance said Friday it took in $5.1 billion more in February than it spent. The massive surplus came about largely because of higher personal and corporate income tax revenues. Personal income tax revenues were up by $1 billion, a 9.9 per cent jump from the same month in 2013. Corporate tax revenues rose by $700 million, or 10.9 per cent.
Program spending in the month was up just $100 million, or 0.5 per cent, compared to a year earlier.
The February surplus follows two other big monthly surpluses — $2.2 billion in January, and $1.1 billion in December.
The latest surplus numbers leave Ottawa's monthly accounts with a $5.4-billion deficit for the first 11 months of the fiscal year. That's half the $10.7-billion Ottawa faced at the same time a year ago.
The federal budget in March projected that by the time the books are finalized for the 2013-14 fiscal year, the deficit would come in at $16.6 billion. So with only the numbers from March left to report in the current fiscal year, that figure seems likely to be bettered.
In last month's budget, Ottawa projected a $2.9-billion deficit for 2014-15 and a $6.4-billion surplus by 2015-16. The Department of Finance said the latest fiscal numbers show that "the government remains on track to balance the budget in 2015."
But barring something unforeseen, many economists say it's possible the federal books will be balanced by the 2014-15 fiscal year, a year earlier than Ottawa's official projections. That could give the Harper government room to offer tax breaks in next year's budget — just ahead of the scheduled October election.