Debts on the rise, but Canadians are paying up

By Andrew Rickard | November 11 2016 11:30AM

Non-mortgage debt balances rose by 2.3% in the last quarter, and they will probably continue to increase for the next two years. Serious delinquency rates, however, are mostly flat.

At the end of September, the average Canadian non-mortgage debt balance reached $21,686, up from the $21,195 reported for the same quarter last year. Those in Ontario and Quebec took on the most debt, where balances were up by 2.6% and 3.6% respectively. The credit bureau believes non-mortgage debt levels will reach $21,747 by the end of next year and $22,000 at the end of 2018.

Although people are taking out more loans, the report reveals that serious delinquency rates (i.e., 90 days or more past due) have only risen slightly, from 2.62% in Q3 2015 to 2.70% in the third quarter of this year. Transunion says the largest yearly delinquency gains have been in Alberta (+13.4%) and Saskatchewan (+11.9%), while Ontario (-1.2%) and British Columbia (-0.4%) have seen modest declines. The company expects the overall Canada delinquency rate to improve, dropping to 2.63% by the end of 2017.

“The recent government outlook of weak economic conditions may have led some consumers to believe low interest rates will be here for a long time, which could result in pushing balances even higher due to low expected borrowing costs,” says Jason Wang, TransUnion's director of research and analysis in Canada. “With the latest data in hand, we think it's especially important for lenders to continue monitoring and stress testing their portfolios to ensure they can maintain stable performance when interest rates do eventually rise.”