Ontarians’ concerns about debt and interest rates ease, yet repayment anxiety persists for majority

2024-04-08  6 minute read

Caryl Newbery-Mitchell

MNP Consumer Debt Index

  • Six in 10 are concerned about their ability to repay their debts (58%, -7 pts).
  • Nearly half (45%, -1 pt) report being $200 or less away from failing to meet all their financial obligations.
  • A third (36%, +5 pts) say they already can't cover their bills and debt payments each month.
  • More than half of Ontarians are feeling a social squeeze as the financial pressure of social obligations means many simply can’t afford to participate.
  • A third of Ontarians say they still haven’t recovered financially from the pandemic four years later.

A lake in Ontario with a dock and canoe

TORONTO, ON – April 8, 2024 – The latest MNP Consumer Debt Index finds that Ontarians are feeling increasingly confident in their personal finances this quarter as interest rate concerns ease. Significantly more Ontarians perceive their current debt situation to be better (26%, +7 pts) and fewer rated it as much worse compared to a year ago (15%, -9 pts). With the prospect of interest rate cuts on the horizon, fewer households in Ontario are concerned about their level of debt (42%, -6 pts) and significantly fewer this quarter regret the amount of debt they’ve taken on in life (42%, -8 pts). A quarter say they are much better equipped to absorb an interest rate increase of one percentage point (24%, +4 pts) or an extra $130 in interest payments (24%, +7 pts).

“We are seeing increased confidence from Ontarians regarding their debt situation and capacity to deal with interest rate hikes,” says Caryl Newbery-Mitchell, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee with MNP LTD in Toronto. “However, Ontarians are still facing ongoing stressors such as pandemic-related financial impacts and mounting cost-of-living challenges. Looming mortgage renewals are also continuing to strain households. This is of particular concern to Ontario homeowners, who may potentially see larger spikes in post-renewal mortgage payments than most of the country.”

While fewer this quarter are concerned about their ability to repay their debts (58%, -7 pts), repayment anxiety persists for the majority of Ontarians. Relatively stable since last quarter, nearly half (45%, -1 pt) of Ontarians report being $200 or less away from failing to meet all their financial obligations. This includes a third (36%, +5 pts) who say they already can't cover their bills and debt payments — more than those in any other province. Additionally, more than half (54%, -6 pts) say they will be in financial trouble if interest rates go up much more.

“Ontarians are more likely than those in any other province to report that they are technically insolvent — meaning they are unable to meet all their bills and debt obligations. This highlights the widespread nature of Ontarians’ financial troubles,” says Newbery-Mitchell. “The key takeaway is that you’re not alone in these struggles. Reach out for professional help sooner rather than later to prevent further escalation and establish a plan for debt relief. Help is within reach.”

Newbery-Mitchell says that the shame and guilt associated with unmanageable debt often cause people to delay getting professional assistance. However, this puts them at risk of aggressive collections activity and debt relief scams — resulting in further stress and isolation.

“The emotional toll of unmanageable debt should not be underestimated. Intensifying that burden is the persistent cost-of-living crisis, marked by escalating monthly expenses and food prices. The lasting financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continue to affect many households, also compound debt hardship even further,” explains Newbery-Mitchell.

More than half of Ontarians (53%) indicate they are feeling a social squeeze on their personal finances and are worried about the amount of money they’ll have to spend on lifestyle and social obligations.

“The majority of Ontarians are feeling financial pressure related to attending or participating in social events such as birthdays, weddings, graduations, and family celebrations. The inability to participate in these social gatherings due to financial constraints can be deeply disheartening,” explains Newbery-Mitchell. “Some individuals may even resort to taking on further financial strain in order to participate — which only exacerbates their financial difficulties.”

While a third of Ontarians say they have recovered financially since the start of the pandemic in 2020 (32%), more say they are in a worse financial state than they were pre-pandemic (34%).

“Some Ontarians find themselves trapped in a cycle of unmanageable debt, which hinders their ability to progress financially,” says Newbery-Mitchell. “Taking proactive steps, such as speaking with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee for unbiased advice, is essential to break free from this cycle. They will help develop a plan to deal with the debt, recognizing that everyone’s situation is different and requires a customized approach.”

MNP’s national team of Licensed Insolvency Trustees offers free consultations to help severely indebted Ontarians get unbiased debt advice, understand their rights, and determine the best path forward. Licensed Insolvency Trustees are the only federally regulated debt professionals who can assist with all the debt relief options, including Consumer Proposals and Bankruptcy, stop harassment from debt collectors, and discharge people from debt.


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 MNPdebt.ca 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 twenty-eighth wave, the Index increased to 91 points, up eight points since last quarter. Visit MNPdebt.ca/CDI to learn more.

The data was compiled by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD between March 8 and March 15, 2024. For this survey, a sample of 2,000 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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