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Manitobans have the lowest consumer debt load in Canada
Oct 15, 2010
Manitobans may now be carrying more mortgage debt as a result of increased house prices, but the province has the lowest level of consumer per capita debt in Canada, according to a new report. 
In addition, Manitoba’s cost of living is among the lowest in Canada, surpassed only by Saskatchewan, according to the MB Check-Up report, an annual economic analysis of the province as a place to live, work and invest, published by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba.
“The reason for this significant change in consumer debt levels in Manitoba is in part due to increased mortgage debt,” said Gary Hannaford, CEO of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba. “In 2009, the average house price in the province grew faster than in all other provinces, except B.C. and Saskatchewan.”
At 11 per cent, Manitoba showed the greatest increase in consumer debt per capita last year, but at $20,463 it is the lowest in absolute terms when compared to the other jurisdictions. 
Consumer debt per capita is personal debt (i.e., credit card debt, personal loans, other debt) and mortgage debt 
divided by the total population.
Despite the increase in average house prices, Manitoba's cost of living remains low. Cost of living, defined in the study as the percentage of total household expenditures spent on shelter, is 18.2 per cent in Manitoba with only Saskatchewan slightly lower at 17.2 percent.
“Since 2004, Manitoba has had the largest increase in cost of living as it rose by 1.2 percentage points,” added Hannaford. “Despite that increase, it remains one of the lowest among the comparison jurisdictions.”
Not keeping pace with the other increases is labour compensation, defined as the remuneration received by an individual for work done in the form of wages or salary and employers’ social contributions (such as retirement allowances and dental plans) before deducting government transfers.
Last year, real labour compensation per employee rose 1.2 per cent, the third-highest increase in the comparison jurisdictions. However, Manitoba continues to have the lowest real labour compensation per employee out of the jurisdictions reviewed.
The MB Check-Up also shows that, at 10.8 per cent, Manitoba continues to have the largest percentage of youth at risk, or those aged 19 to 24 without high school accreditation.
“Failure to obtain a high school diploma has obvious long-term costs,” Hannaford said. “Both for the individual, in terms of increased unemployment and diminished earning potential and for society at large, in terms of greater dependence on social security and other support systems.”
The study shows that Manitoba tied with Alberta for the largest decrease (-2.1 percentage points) in youth at risk over the past year. However, over the past five years, the province has made limited progress (-1.9 percentage points) with this indicator across the comparison jurisdictions and it was less improvement compared to reductions in Alberta (-3.4 percentage points), a province that also consistently has one of the highest numbers of youth at risk, over the same time period.
The Live section of the check-up also shows that health care spending was similar to the other provinces and increased 2.1 per cent to $3,256 per capita in 2009.
Since 2004, Manitoba has consistently had the second-highest level of health care spending per capita over the past five years.