(VANCOUVER) While millions of Canadians lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s top 20 billionaires have amassed an average of nearly $2 billion each in wealth during six of the most economically catastrophic months in Canadian history, for a combined total of $37 billion.
The biggest gains are to the Thomson family fortune (an estimated $8.8 billion increase), followed closely by Shopify’s Tobi Lutke ($6.6 billion increase)—mirroring some of the huge gains among tech giants like Amazon and Apple south of the border. The Weston family ranked third, while Lululemon founder Chip Wilson saw a nearly $3 billion gain. (Full ranking follows below. Data for the report come from Forbes’ annual billionaires list.)
“At the same time as billionaires like Loblaws owner Galen Weston have seen their wealth balloon, front-line workers stocking shelves and scanning groceries at his stores have continued to risk their health and that of their loved ones by coming into work,” says Alex Hemingway, an economist and public finance analyst at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’s BC Office and lead author of the report.
“To add insult to injury, front-line grocery store workers have had their $2 per hour ‘pandemic pay’ clawed back while the grocery store owners made huge profits,” he added.
Overall, workers in Canada continue to bear the economic consequences of the crisis. In the latest labour force data, 1.1 million fewer people were employed in Canada compared to pre-COVID levels and another 713,000 workers were technically employed but have lost half or more of their usual hours due to the pandemic. Low-wage workers have been hit hardest and Statistics Canada data show women and racialized Canadians are overrepresented among low-wage workers.
“Throughout this pandemic, we've been told ‘we're all in this together’, but our research shows this is far from true," says Michal Rozworksi, a CCPA-BC research associate and report co-author. “It’s clear the wealthy minority lives in a very different world than the rest of us.”
Hemingway and Rozworksi are calling for a wealth tax, a major crackdown on tax havens and corporate tax reform — saying these are all essential for increased economic fairness in Canada.
“Even before the pandemic, Canadian billionaires held nearly 4,500 times the wealth of the typical family,” says Hemingway. “Both an emergency, one-time excess wealth tax and an annual wealth tax should be on the table.”
Hemingway notes that while billionaire wealth has bounced back and expanded, millions of Canadians are struggling with the economic consequences of the pandemic.
Canadian billionaires’ wealth during 2020 pandemic
|Name||Forbes ranking, Mar. 2020||Wealth ($bil), March 18||Wealth ($bil), Sept 14||Change ($bil), Mar-Sept|
|David Thomson and family||1||$41.7||$50.6||$8.8|
|Galen Weston and family||3||$9.2||$10.8||$1.6|
|Emanuelle Saputo and family||9||$5.0||$5.9||$0.9|
|Anthony von Mandl||10||$4.4||$5.8||$1.5|
|Jean Coutu & family||18||$3.2||$3.6||$0.4|
|TOP 20 TOTAL||$141.2||$178.2||$37.0|
Source: Forbes annual billionaires list and “Real-time billionaires” data. Shown in Canadian dollars.
The report can be found here.
Alyssa O’Dell at 343-998-7575 or [email protected]
After 9 a.m. EST: Jean Kavanagh at 604-802-5729, [email protected]