Consumer Proposal: What It Is and How It Works

Consumer Proposal: What It Is and How It Works

Consumer Proposal What It Is and How It WorksNavigating the complex world of personal finance can be daunting, especially when faced with overwhelming debt. Amidst the various options available, the consumer proposal stands out as a viable alternative to the drastic measure of bankruptcy. This comprehensive guide will delve into the intricacies of the consumer proposal, exploring its benefits, eligibility criteria, and how it compares to other debt management strategies.

Understanding the Consumer Proposal

A consumer proposal is a legally binding agreement between an individual and their creditors, facilitated by a licensed bankruptcy and insolvency trustee. This arrangement allows the debtor to pay a reduced amount of their outstanding debts over a fixed period, typically within five years. Creditors often find this arrangement more favorable than waiting indefinitely for full repayment, which may never materialize.

The Role of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Trustee

The consumer proposal process is governed by the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act of Canada and must be administered by a licensed bankruptcy and insolvency trustee. This professional plays a crucial role in mediating the agreement between the debtor and their creditors, ensuring the process adheres to the legal framework.

Fees and Costs Associated with a Consumer Proposal

While the specifics may vary, filing a consumer proposal generally incurs an initial fee of around $750, with an additional $750 for the administration of the accepted proposal. Additionally, the trustee overseeing the process will typically take a service fee, often amounting to 20% of the agreed-upon payments.

Advantages of a Consumer Proposal

The consumer proposal offers several advantages over declaring bankruptcy, making it an attractive option for those struggling with debt.

Retain Assets and Avoid Surplus Income Payments

Unlike bankruptcy, a consumer proposal does not require the debtor to surrender their assets or make potentially burdensome surplus income payments. This allows individuals to maintain their financial stability and avoid the loss of valuable possessions.

Improved Credit Profile

While both a consumer proposal and bankruptcy are recorded on one’s credit report, the consumer proposal generally remains for a shorter duration, typically no longer than three years from completion. In contrast, a bankruptcy can remain on a credit report for six to seven years.

Automatic Stay of Proceedings

Once the consumer proposal process is initiated, creditors are legally prohibited from contacting the debtor, pursuing them in court, or garnishing their wages. This “stay of proceedings” provides immediate relief and protection from persistent creditor harassment.

Eligibility Criteria for a Consumer Proposal

To be eligible for a consumer proposal, certain criteria must be met. These include:

  • Residing or operating a business in Canada
  • Having a minimum of $1,000 in debt
  • Being insolvent, meaning the inability to make debt payments or having unsecured debt exceeding one’s assets
  • Ensuring the total debt does not exceed $250,000 (excluding a mortgage)

Additionally, individuals can file a joint consumer proposal with a spouse or another party if the debts are substantially the same.

Comparing Consumer Proposals to Bankruptcy

While consumer proposals and bankruptcy share some similarities, there are distinct differences between the two options.

Key Differences

  • Bankruptcy typically requires the surrender of assets, whereas a consumer proposal allows the debtor to retain their possessions.
  • Bankruptcy may involve surplus income payments, which are not a requirement in a consumer proposal.
  • The duration of the credit report impact differs, with bankruptcy remaining for six to seven years, while a consumer proposal is noted for no longer than three years from completion.

Exploring Debt Management Plans

Another debt relief option to consider is a debt management plan, often administered by non-profit credit counselling agencies. While this approach shares some similarities with a consumer proposal, there are significant differences.

Debt Management Plan vs. Consumer Proposal

  • A debt management plan is voluntary, and creditors can still choose to pursue the debtor, whereas a consumer proposal is legally binding.
  • In a debt management plan, the debtor must repay the full original amount owed to their creditors, while a consumer proposal allows for a reduced payment.
  • Creditor harassment and wage garnishment cease with a consumer proposal, but may continue under a debt management plan.

Determining the Best Debt Relief Option

When deciding between a consumer proposal, bankruptcy, or a debt management plan, it’s crucial to carefully evaluate your specific financial situation and long-term goals. Factors such as the amount of debt, asset ownership, and income level should all be considered.

Consulting a Licensed Bankruptcy and Insolvency Trustee

Seeking the guidance of a licensed bankruptcy and insolvency trustee is highly recommended. These professionals can provide personalized advice, assess your eligibility, and help you navigate the complexities of the available debt relief options.

Maintaining Financial Discipline and Rebuilding Credit

Regardless of the debt relief path chosen, it’s essential to develop and adhere to a disciplined financial plan. This may involve budgeting, cutting expenses, and prioritizing debt repayment. Additionally, taking proactive steps to rebuild one’s credit profile, such as making timely payments and monitoring credit reports, can help pave the way for a stronger financial future.


The consumer proposal offers a compelling alternative to bankruptcy, providing a structured and legally binding way to manage overwhelming debt. By understanding its key features, eligibility criteria, and how it compares to other debt relief options, individuals can make an informed decision that aligns with their unique financial circumstances and long-term goals. With the guidance of a licensed professional and a commitment to financial discipline, the consumer proposal can be a powerful tool in regaining control over one’s financial well-being.

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