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Living paycheque-to-paycheque: 'Canadians are under stress,' warns Equifax

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As Canadians deal with a crushing housing shortage, high rental prices and inflationary price pressures, now Equifax Canada is warning that Canadian consumers are increasingly "under stress" from the surging cost of living.

"Our data says about 50 per cent of Canadians are living paycheque-to-paycheque," Sue Hutchinson, the president of Equifax Canada, told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.

The Liberals have already announced a bevy of measures to help put a dent in Canada's housing crisis, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledging to "meet the moment" as younger generations increasingly feel "middle-class stability" is out of reach.

"Millennials and Gen Z now make up the majority of Canada's labour force," he said. "They are our economy."

However, Hutchinson says although shelter cost remains "the biggest spend" for Canadians, the stress is being seen across the board -- and both consumers and businesses are feeling the pressure.

"We are seeing a lot of stress," Hutchinson explained to CTV News' Renee Rodgers in a one-on-one interview. "We're seeing bankruptcies up, we're seeing missed payments up."

Equifax "excited" by Renters' Bill of Rights

Hutchinson also warned that sky-high shelter costs are becoming an increasing problem for many Canadians and moves to "support growth in housing" is both welcome and needed – but increasing Canada's rental stock should be prioritized.

"We've got an increasing number of renters in this country," she said. "It's gone up about 20 per cent."

Hutchinson says Equifax Canada is excited by the "evolving discussion" around renters and rental payments, particularly Ottawa's Renters' Bill of Rights, which would see timely payments count towards a credit score.

"We have about a third of Canadians that have no credit history," Hutchinson explained. "This really disadvantages them in terms of getting access to mainstream financial services."

"A lot of stress"

The pressure that businesses are facing also shouldn't be forgotten, with bankruptcies rising across the country, and Hutchinson says that the number of businesses that struggled to repay CEBA loans should serve as a warning.

"Some of the COVID loans to businesses… about 25 per cent missed their January payments," Hutchinson warned. "So we are seeing a lot of stresses here."

Although there's been some speculation about the possibility of a tax hike, a possibility Trudeau has ruled out for the middle class, Hutchinson says it's important that the federal government provides support for the segments of the population struggling the most with the rising cost of living.

"We certainly have the 'haves' and 'have nots' in this country."

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