The federal deficit for the last fiscal year is expected to come in at $5.2 billion — well below earlier forecasts, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
In the last federal budget, the deficit for 2013-14 was projected at $16.6 billion, Harper told a business audience Thursday in Brampton, Ont. The latest calculations show it was more than $11 billion lower than that.
Harper said that doesn't mean the government is predicting a surplus for the current fiscal year, despite the belief by some observers it is already effectively carrying a surplus.
"The government has no plan or no intention to move this year into a surplus," Harper said. "We continue to intend to run a small deficit this year before returning to surplus."
Last spring's budget predicted the deficit would slip to $2.9 billion in the current 2014-15 fiscal year and climb to a surplus of $6.4 billion the next year.
The Conservative government expects to post a small deficit in the current fiscal year and is projecting surpluses after that, Harper said.
One-time factors played a significant role in the improvement, he added, but didn't offer details.
The timing is hardly a happy coincidence for the Conservatives, who find themselves well on their way to reaping a surplus just in time for a federal election, scheduled to take place in October 2015.
Harper said the Tories do intend "to move quickly to implement promises that we made to Canadians in the last election."
One of those planks — an expansion of income splitting for couples with children — was announced during the 2011 campaign, but was contingent on the government balancing the books.
The government is expected to come up with other goodies to finance the coming campaign, depending on how large the actual surplus turns out to be.