(Adds details on spending, revenues, minister comment, debt plans)
By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, April 11 (Reuters) - The western Canadian province of Manitoba on Tuesday forecast an C$840 million ($630 million) deficit for its 2017-18 budget, its ninth straight shortfall, as Premier Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives chart a long path back to balanced budgets.
A year-over-year reduction in the province’s deficit would inch Manitoba toward surplus territory, after it recorded an C$872 million shortfall in the 2016-17 fiscal year that ended March 31.
Finance Minister Cameron Friesen repeated a pledge that the government would balance its budget within seven years, if it wins a second term in office.
“Some of our provincial neighbors are pursuing different paths involving stark decisions, choosing higher taxes or pursuing increased spending,” Friesen said in a statement. “Manitoba’s budget avoids such drastic measures.”
Neighboring Prairie province Saskatchewan, which last month forecast a C$685 million deficit, boosted its provincial sales tax.
Manitoba’s economy depends on farming, manufacturing and mining. The province’s spending cuts include infrastructure related to roads and healthcare, phasing out a tax credit for student tuition and capping a credit for unpaid caregivers.
The government projected spending at C$17.1 billion and revenue of C$16.1 billion, both up about 3 percent. The budget includes C$115 million for possible additional savings during the year.
Manitoba’s gross domestic product is forecast to grow 1.8 percent in 2017, lagging the Canadian average among provinces of 2.3 percent, TD Economics said last month.
The province’s net debt was an estimated C$23.1 billion on March 31, and is expected to rise to C$24.8 billion by the same date in 2018. ($1 = 1.3333 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; editing by Meredith Mazzilli, G Crosse)