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Canada’s federal government has posted a surprise $1.9-billion surplus in 2014-15, bringing the country’s books back into black a year earlier than expected.
The Finance Department released year-end figures for 2014-15, on Monday, September 14, 2015. Financial analysts had previously predicted a $2-billion deficit, which would have been the seventh straight deficit under the Conservatives. In 2013-14, the Conservatives posted a $5.2-billion deficit.
The surplus was a welcome announcement for Stephen Harper, whose re-election campaign recently weathered the high-profile bribery and fraud trial of Conservative senator Mike Duffy.
Speaking in British Columbia on Monday, Harper stated
“The Liberals and the NDP are making spending promises, tens of billions of dollars of spending promises, with money they do not have, and money they can only get through running ongoing multi-billion dollar deficits and raising your taxes… Make no mistake. That will hurt our fragile economy, that will cost you money, and that will put jobs at risk.”
According to an Ottawa Citizen editorial, the timing of the announcement suggests that the Conservatives’ strategy will be to use the new report on the government’s healthy finances to sell the message that they are the only party that can be trusted to manage Canada’s fragile economy, and to draw attention away from the trial of Bruce Carson, a former policy adviser to Harper from 2006 to 2008. Carson has been charged with improperly lobbying the federal Indian Affairs ministry in 2010 and 2011 over the proposed sale of a water filtration system to an aboriginal group. His trial also began Monday, September 14th.
With a leaders’ debate on the economy Thursday in Calgary, the NDP and Liberal leaders quickly put their own spin on the numbers released.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who has said he would run deficits if elected, accused Harper of purposefully under-spending in some areas to produce a surplus on paper.
“We know and we saw Mr. Harper under-spending and making cuts to veteran’s affairs, to aboriginal affairs, to seniors in the billions of dollars so he could balance the books in time for his election. It was a political goal that actually has helped us slide into the recession that Canada is the only G7 country in right now.”
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said the surplus provides a “solid fiscal foundation” to build the multi-billion-dollar programs that the NDP has been pledging on the campaign trail.
“Today’s numbers are good news for Canadians and it shows that the NDP is going to be starting off on the right foot, by proposing to have a balanced budget, talking to Canadians about what we can accomplish together in health care, quality, affordable $15-a-day child care.”
The three party leaders will meet on Thursday for a debate on the Canadian economy hosted by The Globe and Mail.
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