Ottawa adds $300M to deficit in January; 10-month shortfall at $39.6B

The federal government added another $300 million to its deficit in January, bringing Ottawa’s shortfall for the first 10 months of fiscal 2009-2010 to $39.6 billion, the Finance Department said Friday.

OTTAWA — The federal government added another $300 million to its deficit in January, bringing Ottawa’s shortfall for the first 10 months of fiscal 2009-2010 to $39.6 billion, the Finance Department said Friday.

Officials said January’s deficit was smaller than others in recent months — it was $3.1 billion in December and $4.4 billion in November — partly because of a $1.7-billion gain in revenue driven by corporate tax receipts due to year-end settlements.

In its budget earlier this month, the Conservative government projected a full-year deficit of $53.8 billion, not much changed from September projections in the neighbourhood of $56 billion.

Meanwhile, expenses continue to mount, up $1.8 billion or 10.8 per cent, reflecting higher program costs for things like employment insurance because of the weak economy.

The almost $40-billion deficit to date represents a sharp reversal from the $500-million surplus the government enjoyed at this time last year, and the almost $10-billion surplus of two years ago.

Overall, roughly $17 billion of this year’s accumulated shortfall is due to measures taken under the federal government’s economic stimulus plan, including tax cuts, expanded EI benefits and the auto sector bailout.

EI payouts alone have increased by $5.1 billion or 41.4 per cent in the first 10 months of the fiscal year.

At the same time, Ottawa has lost $17.7 billion in revenues compared with the previous year, with corporate tax receipts accounting for about one third of the drop-off.