Two Canadian billionaires are as rich as nearly 1/3 of Canada: report
Published Sunday, January 15, 2017 7:00PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 16, 2017 4:03PM EST
New economic analysis suggests that two Canadian billionaires own the same amount of wealth as nearly one-third of all Canadians. On a global scale, about half of the planet’s population owns the same amount of wealth as the world’s eight richest businessmen, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The alarming findings are outlined in Oxfam‘s annual report on the distribution of global wealth, released Sunday.
The report, based on 2016 data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Data book, includes new and better information from India and China, which helps paint a clearer picture of world poverty and the systemic barriers facing the poor.
In Canada, the two richest businessmen -- media magnate David Thomson and Holt Renfrew owner Galen Weston -- are worth a collective $33.1 billion (USD), according to figures collected by Oxfam.
That’s equivalent to the collective net worth of 30 per cent of Canadians, Oxfam reported. Women are among the poorest of the group, according to Oxfam Canada’s director of policy and campaigns.
“We’re really looking, in particular, at single, working moms – indigenous women in particular,” Lauren Ravon told CTVNews.ca.
The discrepancy can be attributed to several factors. Ravon says that workers’ wages have stagnated or declined in recent years while pay for CEOs have continued to rise. Oxfam reported that, between 1988 and 2011, the incomes of the poorest 10 per cent made up 3 per cent of Canada’s total income growth, while incomes for the richest 10 per cent made up 29 per cent.
Gender inequality is also a major factor. Oxfam cited Statistics Canada findings that women are paid less than men in more than 90 per cent of jobs tracked by the government agency.
There’s no single solution to shrinking Canada’s poverty gap. But, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tours the country speaking with ordinary Canadians, Oxfam laid out several federal policy suggestions, including:
- Investmenting in social services, such as child care and services for First Nations;
- Implementing federal pay equity legislation to pressure the provinces to increase minimum wage across Canada;
- Continuing to crack down on tax evasion;
- Discouraging tax policies, such as corporate tax breaks, that encourage inequality;
- Following through on a gender analysis on the federal budget.
On a global scale, eight businessmen control the same amount of wealth as the 3.6 billion people who comprise the poorest half of humanity, Oxfam found.
North America accounts for a tiny portion of the world’s poorest half, at about 1 per cent. Developing countries in the global South make up the majority of the those living in poverty. One in four of the world’s poorest live in India, and one in five live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Ravon says that, because poverty is “internationally linked,” the federal government should increase its budget for international aid, which she says is “really disappointing” at current levels.
She also applauded Trudeau for his decision to forego the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to travel across the country speaking to ordinary Canadians.
“Prime Minister Trudeau needs to be speaking to the working moms, the hotel cleaners, the daycare workers, because ultimately we need to be making decisions based on their interests, and not on the interests of the super rich,” she said.
“These are the people who need to be influencing our decision making.”
A growing rift between the rich and poor has been cited as one of the factors that drove British voters to support Brexit and influenced American voters – particularly those in the Rust Belt states – to cast ballots for U.S. president-elect Donald Trump.
Asked whether inequality in Canada could trigger a similar political shift, Ravon said “it’s very risky.”
“Canada historically has been less unequal than other developed countries, but we’re still going down that same path of growing inequality,” she said.
The eight richest Canadian businessmen, compiled by Oxfam via Forbes' 2016 billionaires list in U.S. dollars, are:
- David Thomson (net worth $23.8 billion)
- Galen Weston, supermarket retailer with controlling interest in Loblaw Companies (net worth $9.3 billion)
- Garrett Camp, co-founder of UBER (net worth $6.2 billion)
- James Irving, owner of Brunswick News and J. D. Irving Limited, a conglomerate with interests in forestry, pulp and paper, tissue, newsprint, building supplies, frozen food, transportation, shipping lines, and ship building (net worth $5.4 billion)
- Bernard (Barry) Sherman, created Apotex, Canada's largest pharmaceutical company (net worth $4.9 billion)
- Arthur Irving, owner of Irving Oil (net worth $4.7 billion)
- Jim Pattison, CEO, chairman and sole owner of the Jim Pattison Group (net worth $4.5 billion)
- Emanuele (Lino) Saputo, owner of Saputo Dairy (net worth $4.4 billion)