OTTAWA – The federal government posted a surprise $1.9-billion surplus in 2014-15 — bringing the country’s books back into balance a year earlier than expected.
The Finance Department released the year-end figures Monday for a period the government had predicted to instead generate a $2.0-billion shortfall.
The number ends a streak of six deficits under the Conservatives and is certain to reverberate on the campaign trail.
Political leaders have jockeyed to portray themselves as the best stewards of the public piggy bank as the economy has struggled amid the steep slide in commodity prices.
The surplus will likely please Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, whose government had forecasted a $2.0-billion deficit for 2014-15 in its April budget.
At the time, the Tories also predicted a $1.4-billion surplus for the current 2015-16 fiscal year.
Harper’s political rivals, however, have charged that Ottawa is on track to run another shortfall in 2015-16 after the economy slipped into a recession.
He has insisted the government will balance the budget in 2015-16 and repeatedly pointed to early numbers released by the Finance Department as evidence the country is on track.
Last month, the Finance Department reported a $5-billion surplus for the April-June quarter, but Harper’s opponents have dismissed it as preliminary data.
Government officials routinely warn that a few months of information do not necessarily paint the picture for the whole year.
The 2014-15 surplus follows the $5.2-billion deficit posted by Ottawa in 2013-14.