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Nearly half of British Columbians say they're $200 away from insolvency: poll

Nearly half of British Columbians say they're not confident they can cover expenses over the next year, says a new poll. Despite rising financial anxiety, the number of B.C. respondents lured by retail sales nearly doubled compared to the previous year
The report, conducted by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD. comes as Vancouver tops out as the most expensive place to rent in Canada.

Nearly half of British Columbians say they are not confident they can cover their expenses over the coming year, a new poll has found. 

According to an Ipsos survey conducted every quarter on behalf of the national accounting firm MNP LTD. the number of people who don’t think they can cover the cost of living has surged 10 percentage points since the last quarter. 

Meanwhile, over 40 per cent of British Columbians said they were worried about how much debt they were in, and 21 per cent said they think that situation has gotten worse over the past year. 

“Now, as we near two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, British Columbians are becoming increasingly worried about their household debt,” said MNP’s Lower Mainland-based licensed insolvency trustee Linda Paul said in a written statement. 

Paul added that people often have a grim outlook on their finances over holiday bills. But this year, the Omicron variant, rising inflation and potential interest rate hikes all appear to be taking an added psychological toll.

Less than a third of respondents said they were confident they could cope with “life-changing events” without going into deeper debt. 

British Columbians also appear to be less confident in their ability to weather relationship turmoil: whereas last quarter 32 per cent said they could handle a change in relationship status, that proportion has dropped to 26 per cent.

Another 19 per cent said they could cope with the death of a family member (down three per cent), while only 17 per cent said they could pay for education (down six per cent).

When it comes to British Columbians’ confidence in how they would financially cope with an illness that put them out of work for three months, a third said they wouldn’t be able to handle it.

“For households in B.C. whose budgets have been stretched thin during the pandemic, it’s getting harder and harder to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” added Paul. 

“As we weather another wave of business closures, reduced working hours or job loss, and health concerns related to COVID, many could find themselves vulnerable to any change to their budget.”

The poll comes amid rising projections on the cost of rentals in B.C.’s biggest city. 

A national rent report ranking the most expensive cities to rent in Canada put Vancouver at the top of the list, with the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment climbing to $2,176 in January, up over 13 per cent over the previous 12 months.

The report put the cities of Victoria and Coquitlam in 14th and 15th place on the Canada-wide list, with single-bedroom apartments averaging over $1,560 for both communities. 

Those rising costs contribute to a situation where roughly one in two British Columbians surveyed by IPOS said they were $200 away or less from not making ends meet.

British Columbians are the most likely in all of Canada to believe their debt situation has deteriorated: Since September, the number of B.C. residents who said their debt situation was worse than a year ago climbed six points up to 21 per cent. 

But that hasn’t stopped many from spending freely. More than any province, 15 per cent of British Columbians said deals and Black Friday offers lured them—a near doubling over last year.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story identified the accounting firm MNP Inc. It proper name is, in fact, MNP LTD.