With the next federal budget looming on the horizon, Treasury Board President Tony Clement has given Canadians a sneak peak at how the government intends to slash discretionary spending by nearly $5 billion in the next fiscal year.

In the main budgetary estimates for 2013-14 released on Monday, the government signalled its intention to cut spending in a broad range of departments.

The biggest savings will come from the Department of Defence. Its budget will be cut to $17.9 billion for 2013-14 from $19.8 billion for 2012-13.

When supplemental estimates are included, the national defence budget for 2012-13 is even higher at $20.7 billion, which means it could actually face a budget cut of $2.7 billion or 13 per cent.

The government’s savings will also target key sectors in its tough-on-crime agenda:

  • Canada Border Services Agency faces a budget cut of up to 17.5 per cent, or $350 million
  • Prison budgets could be slashed by as much as 14.2 per cent, or $427 million

In a statement, Clement said the estimates demonstrate the government is headed in the right direction.

"We are starting this fiscal year on the right track with a reduction of $4.9 billion over last year in planned voted budgetary expenditures -- the amounts Parliament will be asked to approve," he said.

But some areas will actually see an increase in spending:

  • Citizenship and Immigration will get another $91 million
  • Human Resources will have an extra $125 million
  • All provinces will share an additional $2.5 billion in transfer payments

Overall, the estimates project government spending for the fiscal year that begins April 1 will be up slightly from the previous year -- rising to $252.5 billion from $251.9 billion.

The numbers could change by the time Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tables his budget in March, and can always be adjusted throughout the year in the form of "supplemental" estimates. But Clement told reporters Monday that the figures should be considered a clear signal of what's coming.

"I would call it a harbinger, perhaps, a signal of the kind of budget that we will have," Clement said. "We are continuing to rein in spending."

Flaherty has said the government is on course to eliminate the deficit before Canadians return to the polls in 2015.

At a news conference earlier this month, Flaherty said his next budget plan would not require a "slash and burn" approach, but would be predicated on "careful" spending.