Demand for credit in Western Canada has increased for four consecutive quarters, while activity in the Eastern provinces continues to slow, according to Equifax Canada's Q1 National Consumer Credit Trends Report.

The installment loan and credit card sectors in the Western provinces showed increases of 11.8% and 4.8% year-over-year, respectively. While more new credit cards were issued, consumers on average carry smaller balances.

"Our national consumer debt load remains high around $1.4 trillion, but it's the regional differences that stand out in the first quarter," said Regina Malina, senior director, Decision Insights, Equifax Canada. "Consumer demand for credit is still on an upward trajectory particularly in Western Canada. And yet, these high debt levels remain manageable based on low default rate."

The 90-day delinquency rate for Q1 was down by 3.9% and the average debt is essentially flat - down by 0.5%. Consumer demand for new credit actually ticked up by 2.7%.

Within the context of the Equifax report and the macroeconomic picture, says Malina, "Economic growth continues to be steady but slow. Consumer behavior, lenders' strategies and policymakers approaches stayed largely the same, while exports and business investment are still not at the desired levels. However, stronger U.S. demand and a weaker Canadian dollar should support future increases in export activity."

Data for the report, including scores, are sourced from the Equifax Canada data warehouse, which stores the majority of credit transactions that occur in Canada. There are more than 25 million unique consumer files in the warehouse.

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