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Canadians in oil-producing provinces having more trouble paying debts

Canadians by and large are paying back their loans on time, despite rising debt levels, but the situation isn't as rosy if you live in oil-producing provinces, according to new figures from the Equifax credit monitoring agency.

National delinquency rate falls to record low, Equifax Canada says

An oil sands worker checks the oil during the first step of separation at the Suncor processing plant at its oilsands operations near Fort McMurray, Alberta, (Todd Korol/Reuters)

Canadians by and large are paying back their loans on time, despite rising debt levels, but the situation isn't as rosy if you live in oil-producing provinces, according to new figures from the Equifax credit monitoring agency. 

Equifax Canada says the rate of delinquent loans — payments are overdue by more than 90 days — fell to 1.05 per cent in the third quarter, the lowest rate ever.

But that national figure includes notable regional differences.

In Alberta and Saskatchewan, where tumbling commodity prices have led to widespread layoffs in the oil and gas sector, delinquency rates rose dramatically from the same quarter last year — by 13.4 per cent and 8.5 per cent, respectively.

Delinquency rates rose by a smaller amount in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Delinquency rates are an indicator that we follow closely and we are now seeing a negative effect in Western Canada, said Regina Malina, senior director at Equifax Canada, in a statement.

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

Equifax notes that the number of bankruptcies in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland also increased in the third quarter.

On a national basis, Equifax says Canadians owed an average of $21,312 in consumer debt, excluding mortgages, in the third quarter — up two per cent from the same quarter a year earlier. Consumer debt includes credit card debt, lines of credit, instalment loans and car loans.  

Thanks to low interest rates, Canadians have been accumulating ever-growing amounts of debt in recent years.

Statistics Canada reported in September that Canadians' debt-to-income ratio rose to a record high of 164.6 per cent at the end of June, meaning Canadians, on average, owed almost $1.65 for every dollar of disposable income.

Many economists have warned that people stretched to their debt limits will find themselves in difficulty once interest rates rise.


Average consumer debt (excluding mortgages) by province in Q3 2015

  • Ontario:  $20,881.
  • Quebec: $17,985.
  • Nova Scotia: $21,334.
  • New Brunswick: $21,334.
  • P.E.I.: $21,059.
  • N.L.: $22,360.
  • Alberta: $27,490.
  • Manitoba: $17,803.
  • Sask.: $23,671.
  • B.C.: $23,012.
  • Canada: $21,312. 

Source: Equifax Canada

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