One day after Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz said he thinks record debt levels "will be okay" so long as consumers prepare for higher rates, his comment is running into some skepticism from a money manager. 

Rob Lauzon, Middlefield Capital's deputy chief investment manager, said he's worried about how Canadian consumers will manage if the central bank gets "aggressive" with adjustments to its benchmark lending rate.

"Economists think there's two to four rate increases this year," he told BNN on Thursday. "If we get four, which is aggressive in my opinion… then we're going to have some issues and you're going to have some delinquencies."

"And then you get into the interest rate spiral where higher interest rates cause a slowdown in business, and causes the next recession - which is probably two to three years out. This is just the beginning of what people need to pay attention to."


The Bank of Canada raised its overnight lending rate on Wednesday for the third time in less than a year, lifting it to the highest level since 2009. The bank tempered expectations for more moves in rapid succession, saying it plans to be "cautious" and that the economy still needs "some continued monetary policy accommodation."

But Poloz later put highly indebted Canadians on notice, urging them to brace their finances for even higher rates.

"I don't think Canadians misunderstand debt," he told BNN in an exclusive in interview.

"I think people need to be thinking about what would 100 basis points or 150 basis points [mean for them]. ... And then be prepared because if you think about it and prepare for it, I think it will be okay."

Canadians haven't shied away from taking advantage of historically low interest rates, with household debt levels pushing ever-deeper into record territory. A closely-watched Statistics Canada metric shows Canadians owed $1.71 in credit market debt for every dollar of disposable income in the third quarter of 2017.

And for some, that's become too much to handle. One third of respondents to a recent MNP survey said they're incapable of paying their monthly bills and debt obligations.

"I think now you're going to start to see people look at their statements come January, February, March," Lauzon said, "and say, 'Wow, okay, yeah - my interest payments are 50 bucks, 100 bucks more; okay, I've got to start thinking about it.'"



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