Calgary fares slightly better than Edmonton as bankruptcies rise in Alberta

More Albertans went broke in the first quarter of this year than did during the same period last year.

There was a 15.2 per cent increase in bankruptcies and consumer proposals to settle debts with creditors, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada.

Calgarians fared better than Edmontonians, with Calgary seeing an 8.5 per cent increase and Edmonton a 10.6 per cent increase during that time period.

Canada as a whole saw a six per cent rise in consumer insolvency, and the difference between the provincial and national rate shows people are still struggling post-recession, says one expert.

"People are being faced with this consuming debt," said Craig Fryzuk, the president of Fryzuk Group — a licensed insolvency trustee firm in Calgary. 

"People are still coming in … and they've got the exact same problems they did five, seven, eight years ago."

He said he's seeing an increase in people needing help to file for bankruptcy or consumer proposals — another formal way to settle their debts.

"When they come in and meet with us, there's a sense of relief and the relief comes because they finally know how much they owe," he said.

More people chose consumer proposals than bankruptcies, something Fryzuk said is not surprising.

"In Alberta, the consumer proposals are really taking off," he said. "It's more popular than bankruptcy … bankruptcy for us is usually a last resort."

Fryzuk said he doesn't see the increase in insolvency changing any time soon.

"My gut feel is it certainly is not slowing down. I don't think we're going to see a real significant change in the amount of debt that Canadians are carrying," he said. 

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"We have to get our debt load down. When we do that, we don't have to repay as much, there's more cash in the household each month to service all the other things that we need, to build up that emergency fund." 

Business bankruptcies up too

But it's not just personal debt that's on the rise.

Business bankruptcies were up 42 per cent this quarter in the province.

Fryzuk said often, business owners get stuck after another large company doesn't pay them and it's a trickle-down effect.

"I'm seeing a lot of that. You know, one big one, and then it snowballs down … where [is] that money ever going to come from?"

Between March 31, 2018, and March 31, 2019, 175 businesses and 5,114 people filed for bankruptcy.