While also pinpointing where delinquencies are climbing the fastest, TransUnion’s latest Canada Industry Insights Report found that the average Canadian’s auto loan debt climbed by 2.12 percent year-over-year during the first quarter.

The Q1 figure came in at $19,538, up from $19,132 a year earlier.

Analysts noticed that the average non-mortgage debt level rose by a similar pace. The Q1 average jumped 2.7 percent to $21,348.

TransUnion explained the increase was particularly visible outside of the oil patch, with Ontario and Quebec seeing the greatest rises. Debt levels rose for most major credit products, with lines of credit being the only outlier, experiencing a 0.54 percent average balance decline.

“In credit cards, for example, the national average balance only increased by 1.8 percent from last year, but the subprime card growth rate was 5.7 percent,” said Jason Wang, TransUnion's director of research and analysis in Canada.  

“In fact, prime or better segments actually reduced their balances. Although subprime consumers do not make up the bulk of Canadian credit users, we are going to keep a close eye on this trend,” Wang added.

Regional differences on the delinquency front

While national serious delinquency rates (the ratio of all accounts 90 or more days past due for all non-mortgage loan types) increased approximately 3 percent from 2.45 percent in Q1 2015 to 2.52 percent in Q1 2016, TransUnion noticed some of the most populous provinces such as Ontario and British Columbia experienced declines.

The largest delinquency rate increases occurred in provinces most impacted by the oil slump — Alberta and Saskatchewan. This regional difference is also consistently observed across different loan types.

“When it comes to loan default rates, we are looking at two distinct groups: oil-sector provinces and the rest of the country,” Wang said. “We continue to see material delinquency increases in the oil provinces, and we suspect that it will continue over the next few quarters.

“While financial institutions are understandably inclined to focus their attention and resources — particularly in the risk management arena — on their exposure to the oil patch, it’s important to note that the robustness of consumer spending and credit performance outside the oil provinces shouldn’t be ignored,” he continued.

“Lenders will likely benefit from the generally healthy and well-functioning consumer credit marketplace in the rest of Canada, particularly in those areas where the stable trend in credit usage and the sheer size of the consumer market present good opportunities for growth,” Wang went on to say.