Canadians' Household Debt Grows; Albertans Double Ontarians On Borrowing

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A view of Calgary from under the Peace Bridge. | J.P.Andersen Images via Getty Images

Canadians increased their debt burdens by about six per cent over the past year, according to a new survey from BMO, but when it comes to owing money, different parts of the country are headed in different directions.

Western Canadians have seen their debts skyrocket over the past year, BMO says, with Alberta taking the lead. The average houshold debt there soared 40 per cent, to $124,838. It's the highest debt burden of any region in Canada.

British Columbians’ average household debt jumped 26 per cent, to $99,834, from $79,089.

Meanwhile, Ontarians have been paying down their debt. The average debt burden in Canada’s largest province fell 12 per cent over the past year, to $67,507.

As BMO notes, that means Albertans now have nearly twice as much debt, on average, as Ontarians.

Check out the full list of debt burdens from BMO.

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Consumer Debt Per Person (2014)
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Rapidly rising house prices are part of the reason Albertans are seeing a spike in debt, BMO economist Sal Guatieri said.

Much of the growth in home prices and sales in recent months has been concentrated in three markets -- Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver.

Home sales in Calgary grew 16 per cent in June, compared to a year earlier, while Vancouver saw sales jump 29.4 per cent and Toronto saw an increase of 11.6 per cent.

However, Toronto’s condo market has not seen the sort of price growth seen in the overall housing markets in Calgary and Vancouver, which may help to explain why Ontarians’ debt burdens aren’t growing.

Those rapidly growing home sales numbers also help to explain why a larger number of Canadians hold mortgage debt today than last year.

The number of households with mortgage debt grew by 13 per cent in the past year, BMO’s survey found, to 43 per cent of all households.

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