More than half (54%) of Ontarians within $200 of financial insolvency; up 13 points since December, reaching a five-year high

Toronto skyline at sunset with reflection of skyscrapers in the water

One in three already technically insolvent, up 10 points

TORONTO, ON – April 8, 2021 – As pandemic-related government aid and loan deferral programs begin to wind down, the latest MNP Consumer Debt Index finds the number of Ontarians hovering close to financial insolvency has reached a five-year high. More than half (54%) say they are $200 or less from not being able to cover their monthly bills and debt obligations, a whopping 13-point jump from December. Compared to the other provinces, Ontarians are the most likely (32%, +10pts) to report they are already insolvent with no money left to cover their payments at month-end.

“Financial relief measures provided some breathing room over the last year, but now we’re seeing a rapid reversal,” says Caryl Newbery-Mitchell, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee with MNP LTD in Toronto. “Significantly more in the province are experiencing anxiety about making ends meet — or already being unable to do so.”

Caption: The number of Ontarians who are $200 or less from financial insolvency jumped 13 points since December 2020, reaching a five-year high.

Caption: The number of Ontarians who are $200 or less from financial insolvency jumped 13 points since December 2020, reaching a five-year high.

Conducted quarterly by Ipsos and now in its sixteenth wave, the Index finds households report having less money left over at the end of the month. On average, Ontarians say they are left with $692 after making their payments, down by $148 (or 18 percent) from December. The decline is likely a reflection of government aid programs, eviction bans, and payment deferrals now coming to an end.

“Ontarians may be seeing their bills coming due, even if they are not back to pre-pandemic income levels,” says Newbery-Mitchell. “Though some are spending less and saving more as a result of pandemic measures, others are dropping further into the red and taking on more debt to stay afloat after job, wage, or small business loss.”

More than a quarter (27%) of Ontarians say they have taken on more debt because of the pandemic. This includes using credit cards (13%), using a line of credit (8%), taking out a bank loan (3%), or deferring mortgage payments (4%). Nearly one in five (16%) also report digging into their savings to pay for household bills.

More than half (55%) are concerned about their ability to repay debts if interest rates rise, including about one in three (34%) who worry rising interest rates could move them towards bankruptcy.

“Those taking on more debt are increasingly vulnerable to becoming trapped when interest rates rise,” says Newbery-Mitchell, who urges Ontarians to be proactive about improving their financial positions and seek professional advice concerning increasingly unmanageable consumer debt.

Despite the concern, more than half (56%) believe now is a good time to buy things that they otherwise couldn’t afford (-7 from December). In addition, nearly half (46%) say they’re more relaxed about carrying debt than usual (+2 from December).

The survey found very few Ontarians plan to seek professional advice (5%) or contact a Licensed Insolvency Trustee to discuss debt relief options (2%) over the next year. Instead, it seems many plan to do exactly what Newbery-Mitchell cautions against: taking on even more credit to pay their expenses. Three in 10 (30%) say they plan to take on more debt to pay bills over the next year, including using high-interest options like credit cards (8%) or payday loan service (3%).

“Those who find themselves taking on more debt to pay bills need professional debt advice right away. Do not let the bills pile up or avoid seeking help out of shame. Bankruptcy is not the only option, nor is it always the best option for dealing with debt. Licensed Insolvency Trustees offer free, unbiased advice about your individual situation and the options available,” says Newbery-Mitchell. 

Newbery-Mitchell says a Licensed Insolvency Trustee may recommend one or a combination of the following depending on the extent of the debt and the individual’s overall financial situation:

Budgeting — Setting up a monthly financial plan to help balance and monitor income and expenses and potentially free up more cash to pay down debt.

Refinancing — Re-negotiating the term and interest rate on existing credit accounts to reduce the monthly cost of debts and make them easier to repay.

Liquidating — Selling high-value assets such as non-essential vehicles, recreational properties, sporting goods, and jewelry to provide the financing to pay down debt.

Consolidating ­— Combining all debts into a single monthly payment with a lower average interest rate to reduce the number of payments and their total cost.

Consumer Proposal — Working with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee to negotiate a legally binding debt settlement with creditors that will reduce the amount owed and can be paid over a maximum of five years. Consumer Proposals can only be administered by Licensed Insolvency Trustees.

Bankruptcy — A legal process of liquidating assets and potentially making monthly payments to eliminate outstanding debts and help insolvent consumers achieve a financial fresh start. A Bankruptcy may only be administered by a Licensed Insolvency Trustee.

“Everyone’s situation is different, which why it is important to get customized, unbiased advice from a professional,” adds Newbery-Mitchell.

Government-regulated Licensed Insolvency Trustees are empowered to help Ontarians reorganize their financial affairs and, where appropriate, can even help them avoid Bankruptcy by facilitating an agreement with their creditors. They can also guarantee legal protection from creditors through the Consumer Proposal or Bankruptcy processes.


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 240 offices from coast-to-coast, MNP helps thousands of Canadians each year who are struggling with an overwhelming amount of debt. Visit to contact a Licensed Insolvency Trustee or use our free Do it Yourself (DIY) debt assessment tools. For regular, bite-sized insights about debt and personal finances, subscribe to the MNP 3 Minute Debt Break Podcast.

About the MNP Consumer Debt Index

The MNP Consumer Debt Index measures Canadians’ attitudes toward their consumer debt and gauges their ability to pay their bills, endure unexpected expenses, and absorb interest-rate fluctuations without approaching insolvency. Conducted by Ipsos and updated quarterly, the Index is an industry-leading barometer of financial pressure or relief among Canadians.

Now in its sixteenth wave, the Index currently stands at 96 points, up seven points compared to the last wave conducted in December 2020. Visit to learn more.

The latest data, representing the sixteenth wave of the MNP Consumer Debt Index, was compiled by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD between March 4-9, 2021. For this survey, a sample of 2,001 Canadians aged 18 years and over was interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. 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 Canadian adults 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.

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