Canadians borrowing more, but delinquency rate lowest in more than six years

OTTAWA – Canadians in oil-producing provinces are having a harder time paying their bills, even as the national delinquency rate improves to its lowest level in more than six years.

A report by consumer credit monitoring firm Equifax says the national 90-day delinquency rate, excluding mortgages, slipped to 1.05 per cent, down from 1.10 per cent a year ago and the lowest since Equifax began reporting the figures.

Regina Malina, senior director of decision insights at Equifax Canada, says the average delinquency rate for Western Canada is below the national average, but it is rising.

Equifax says the rates in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba rose 13.4 per cent, 8.5 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively.

The delinquency rate in Newfoundland and Labrador was up 5.8 per cent from a year ago.

“Delinquency rates are an indicator that we follow closely and we are now seeing a negative effect in Western Canada,” Malina said.

“The same holds true in Newfoundland — essentially anywhere in the country where the economy is impacted by oil.”

Total consumer debt amounted to nearly $1.59 trillion, with nearly two-thirds of that accounted for by mortgage debt. The total borrowing was up from nearly $1.57 trillion in the second quarter of 2015 and $1.51 trillion a year ago.

Excluding mortgages, average consumer debt was $21,312 in the third quarter, up from $21,164 in the second quarter and $20,891 a year ago.

Borrowing by Canadians and their ability to pay back their debts have been cited as a key risk for the economy.

Record low interest rates have helped make it easier for Canadians to borrow more and helped fuel the housing market.

However, worries have been raised about what will happen when interest rates eventually start to go up.

“Consumer debt levels continue to rise and those numbers are sure to increase following the holidays,” Malina said.

“However, despite other market research we’ve seen predicting a boom in spending over the holidays, we expect most Canadians will continue to manage their spending wisely. Demand for new credit has eased off.”