The Canadian government would balance its books by next year, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced here Tuesday in delivering his annual budget.
Economic Action Plan 2014 forecasts a 6.4 billion Canadian dollar (5.86 billion U.S. dollars) surplus for the 2015-16 fiscal year, after taking into account a 3 billion-dollar (2.75 billion dollars) annual adjustment for risk.
In fact, Ottawa could have delivered a balanced budget this year, with the federal deficit expected to decline to 2.9 billion dollars (2.66 billion dollars) after factoring in the 3 billion-dollar (2.75 billion dollars) contingency fund used to deal with unexpected spending, such as last year's massive flooding in Alberta, which cost billions of dollars of federal money, Flaherty said at a news conference.
"If you do the arithmetic, we could have had a budget that's balanced by 100,000 dollars out of a 75 or a 76 billion-dollar budget (68.7 billion or 69.6 billion dollars), which is really not significant," he said. "I'd prefer to have a nice, clean surplus next year."
It's widely believed Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government was waiting for 2015 -- when Canadians are expected to head to the polls for a fall federal election -- to deliver a balanced budget, perhaps with some of "flashy spending" and other "baubles that some people might want."
The 2014 budget allocates 1.5 billion dollars (1.37 billion dollars) over 10 years to help Canadian post-secondary research institutions "excel globally."
There are also adjustments in public servants' benefits, retirees' health-care premiums and military purchases.
To combat money laundering and terrorist financing, the Canadian government will introduce regulations addressing the emergence of virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin.
Ottawa plans to roll out a new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Fund project that will require immigrants to "make a real and significant investment in the Canadian economy," while end the "ineffective" Immigrant Investor and Entrepreneur programs.
The 2014 budget also targets wealthy new immigrants who will no longer enjoy a five-year tax exemption from paying taxes on offshore assets -- a measure expected to generate 100 million dollars (91.65 million dollars) in new tax revenue for the federal government.