Former Nova Scotia finance minister Graham Steele talks with reporters at Government House in Halifax on Wednesday, May 30, 2012. He is now the acting finance minister. (The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan)

With an election call looming the Nova Scotia government released an early version of its first quarter fiscal update showing the province is on track for an $18 million surplus, slightly better than the $16 million surplus predicted in its April 4 budget.

In its financial statement the NDP government said decreases in departmental spending and lower debt costs offset lower revenues.

The surplus remains razor thin on a $9.5 billion annual budget.

The first quarter fiscal update is not normally released until September.

Monday's release is likely an attempt to blunt political critics, who, for months  have cast doubt on the NDP's claim that the budget is balanced.

Economic development minister Graham Steele delivered the statement, substituting for Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald who is ill with shingles.

The government has said it would release a fiscal update before calling an election.

The NDP is in its fifth year of its mandate, but does not have to call an election until next year.

The party won a majority government in June 2009.

Last month, the province released its audited financial statement showing it had a deficit of $302 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which ended March 31.