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Billionaires gonna billionaire, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, new report shows

Last Updated Sep 17, 2020 at 11:16 am PST

(iStock Photo)

The country's billionaires didn't seem to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the same way regular Canadians were

Report finds Canada's top billionaires added a combined $37 billion to their collective worth

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – While millions of Canadians lost work and went onto emergency benefits because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems the country’s top billionaires were doing alright.

A new report finds they added a combined $37 billion to their collective worth.

We’re talking about the really high rollers — the Thomson family added $8.8 billion to its fortune, Shopify’s Tobi Lutke added $6.6 billion and, in B.C., Lululemon founder Chip Wilson swelled his bank account by $2.8 billion while serial entrepreneur Jim Pattison added another $1.7 billion to his total.

Alex Hemingway, an economist with the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which released the report, points out that’s an average of about $2 billion apiece during what have arguably been the most economically catastrophic six months in Canadian history.

“This is at a time when millions of Canadians have experienced job loss.  We know we’re still down 1.1 million jobs in Canada, another 700,000 lost more than half their hours.  So, people are really hurting, but Canadian billionaires seem be living in another world.”

Hemingway suggests there is widespread support for a “wealth tax” on the super rich, which would go a long way to bridging the inequality gap.

“That’s one of the options that we have on the table and if an overwhelming majority of Canadians agree this is a problem that needs to be addressed, I think those are policies that we should start seeing more firmly on the public agenda,” Hemingway says, adding that tax reform is also needed.

“We do need to see a real crackdown on tax havens if we’re going to bring in a wealth tax and we know increasingly from the economic research that we can institute that type of crackdown and the issue is bringing the political will to bear to make it happen,” he says.

“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 Hemingway.

“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 adds.

Hemingway and report co-author Michal Rozworksi say policy changes to promote economic fairness in Canada would help struggling Canadians.

-With files from Martin MacMahon