Calgary

Albertans lead country in debt and delinquencies again

Albertans continue to have the dubious distinction of carrying the highest debt load and delinquencies of any other province, according to a new Equifax first-quarter report.

Equifax says average debt of Albertans is $27,473 with levels even higher in Calgary

Albertans lead the country in consumer debt, with the average at more than $28,000 in Calgary. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Albertans continue to have the dubious distinction of carrying the highest debt load and delinquencies of any other province, according to Equifax.

The national average for delinquency rates is rising 3.2 per cent year over year while Alberta's increased 23.1 per cent in the same period, said the Equifax Q1 2016 National Consumer Trends Report.

The average debt of Albertans is $27,473 — with Calgarians singled out for surpassing the national average with about  $1,000 more, sitting at $28,332. Edmonton follows closely behind Calgary with an average consumer debt of $26,418. 

"It's not surprising at all given our current economic conditions in Alberta, especially given that Albertans tend to keep up with the Joneses a little more. Our culture here is everyone here carries debt and credit card debt," said Angela Lock, a licensed insolvency trustee with Grant Thornton — an accounting and business advisory firm.

"So when things go wrong, we don't have the emergency funds to rely on, and keeping up with that credit card payment can be more difficult," Locke added. 

Delinquency typically means being unable to keep up with minimum payments, she said. 

"While most consumers are tightening up on their spending, partially due to seasonal spending, a significant number of consumers are still adding to their debt obligations," said Regina Malina, senior director of decision insights at Equifax Canada, in a release. 

"While overall debt has continued to increase on an annual basis, one has to take a closer look at specific sub-groups to see the full picture."

Nationally, total consumer debt continues to increase.

The report notes as of the first quarter, Canadian consumers owe $1.618 billion — compared to $1.611 billion in fourth quarter last year. A year earlier, the combined consumer debt was $1.544 billion.

Other noteworthy items in the report include:

  • On a debt classification basis, the instalment and auto loan sectors show notable increases of 7.7 per cent and 5.9 per cent year-over-year, respectively.
  • A majority of Canadians are holding steady on paying off monthly credit balances each month.

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