Calgary's Insolvency Rate Reaches Highest Level In 21 Years

2019-06-11   minute read

Donna Carson

MNP Consumer Debt Index

CALGARY, AB – The consumer insolvency rate in Calgary has reached its highest point in 21 years, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy’s most recent annual report. The number of consumer insolvencies per thousand residents in Calgary, aged 18 years or above, hit 4.3 in 2018 — the highest level since 1997 when it sat at 4.8.

“This isn’t good news. But it’s something that warrants further discussion, as debt relief options such as Bankruptcy and Consumer Proposals are the best course of action for severely indebted individuals who may never become debt free otherwise,” says Donna Carson, a debt expert and Licensed Insolvency Trustee with MNP LTD. 

View of Calgary skyline at sunset

A recent survey conducted by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD underscores the consumer debt challenges in Alberta. It found eight in ten (82%) Albertans say they owe more than $1,000, the largest proportion compared to the other provinces. Albertans were also the most likely to say they don’t have enough cash on hand to pay their debts as they become due (48%) and owe more in debt than they’re worth (44%). Three in ten (29%) admit to not making all their debt payments on time.

“It appears that many are close to being insolvent and, with further analysis, may actually be insolvent — which makes them incredibly vulnerable to any kind of unexpected expense. One of the biggest problems is most don’t have a budget or an emergency savings plan, so something like an increase in interest expenses or a car repair could easily throw their finances into a tailspin,” says Carson.

With many Albertans experiencing tightening budgets each month, it’s little surprise just over one quarter are confident in their ability to manage financially that if faced with an unexpected expense. Albertans aren’t confident in their ability to cope with unexpected auto repairs or purchases (32%) or paying for their own or someone else’s education (43%). Compared to the other provinces, Albertans are also the least confident in their ability to cope with a loss of employment (45%), having an illness and being unable to work for three months (42%), a change in relationship status like a divorce or separation (38%) or the death of an immediate family member (45%).

“A lot of people who are severely indebted are unable to make any kind of meaningful reduction in their principal debt and, in fact, continue to take on more — especially if they encounter unexpected expenses,” says Carson. “In these circumstances, debt relief options are the only way for them to regain financial stability.”

Consumer Proposals and Bankruptcies both put a freeze on creditors and allow someone to eventually get out of debt while paying only a portion of what is owed. But there are differences in the two scenarios. Primarily that, under a Consumer Proposal, the amount repaid can typically be negotiated with creditors, whereas bankruptcies may require one to sell assets and / or make legislatively-determined payments. 

Licensed Insolvency Trustees are the only federally regulated professionals who can provide regulated insolvency options, such as Consumer Proposals and Bankruptcies. They have extensive knowledge of governing legislation and are empowered by the federal government to help debtors make the most informed choices to deal with their debt. 

“Getting out of debt is possible — even if you have no income or assets. But the longer people wait to seek help, the worse the situation. The first step for anyone struggling financially is to seek advice from a professional,” advises Carson. 


MNP LTD, a division of the national accounting firm MNP LLP, is the largest insolvency practice in Canada. For more than 50 years, our experienced team of Licensed Insolvency Trustees and advisors have been working with individuals to help them recover from times of financial distress and regain control of their finances. With more than 230 Canadian offices from coast-to-coast, MNP helps thousands of Canadians who are struggling with an overwhelming amount of debt each year. Visit to contact a Licensed Insolvency Trustee or get a free checkup for your debt health using the MNP Debt Scale.

MNP LTD is the creator of the MNP Consumer Debt Index, an industry-leading national barometer of financial pressure among Canadians. Conducted by Ipsos and updated quarterly, the Index measures Canadians’ attitudes toward their consumer debt and gauges their ability to pay their bills, endure unexpected expenses, follow a budget and absorb interest rate fluctuations without approaching insolvency. The next MNP Consumer Debt Index is set to be released in July 2019.

About the Survey

The survey was compiled by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD between March 13 and March 24, 2019. For this survey, a sample of 2,070 was interviewed online. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error.

Consultation icon