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2013 budget deficit $86-million smaller than first anticipated: province

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The 2013 budget deficit is $86-million smaller than first anticipated, the Selinger government said today.

In releasing third quarter results, Finance Minister Jennifer Howard said the new deficit projection is $86 million less than budgeted last year.

The report says the summary budget forecast for fiscal year 2013-14 calls for a net loss of $332 million, an improvement of $186 million from the budgeted net loss of $518 million.

However, because the province recently created a $100-million contingency funds for costs associated with the effects of flooding in four First Nations communities, the summary deficit declines to $432 million, an "improvement" of $86 million.

Driving the better results are the province’s Crown corporations, including Manitoba Hydro, Manitoba Public Insurance and the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba, which have generated $215 million in higher than anticipated revenue this year.

Last April the NDP projected a $518-million summary deficit for this year.

The province also said the new number is a reduction of $148 million from last year's deficit of $580 million.

Howard also said the numbers might have been better if not for a squabble between the province and Ottawa over how many people live in Manitoba.

"Although we are currently on track, we now face the additional and unexpected challenge of $100 million less than was expected in transfer payments each year," Howard said. "The population undercount by Statistics Canada is going to mean $100 million from services in health care and education that our government still needs to provide to the people of this province."

The report also indicates the NDP is spending less money on core services like health, schools and family services. Total core spending is down $194 million.

Howard said the new budget will be delivered March 6 when the legislature comes back into session.

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