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Canada's richest grew their fortunes by $53 billion during the pandemic

·2 min read
Thomson Reuters President and Chief Executive Officer James Smith (L) and Chariman David Thomson laugh before entering their annual general meeting for shareholders in Toronto, May 8, 2013.  REUTERS/Jon Blacker (CANADA - Tags: BUSINESS)
Thomson Reuters Chariman David Thomson (right) and family's wealth grew by $10.4 billion between April to October (REUTERS)

As Canadians lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and businesses shuttered, the country’s richest got richer.

A new report by Canadians for Tax Fairness reveals Canada’s top 44 billionaires grew their fortunes by $53 billion from April to October, or by more than 28 per cent. Only one of them, Michael Lee-Chin of AIC Investments, didn’t maintain or increase wealth.

“While millions of households are struggling to survive through the pandemic, our top billionaires have made out like bandits, including some who have cut pandemic pay for their front-line workers,” said Toby Sanger, economist and director of Canadians for Tax Fairness.

“As Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland prepares to table the government’s fall economic statement and consider ways to pay for the crisis and recovery, she should go to where the money is.”

(Canadians for Tax Fairness)
(Canadians for Tax Fairness)

The period coincides with a massive rally off the bottom for stocks and a surprisingly strong run for real estate, but the trend has been playing out over the past decade. The report found the number of Canadian billionaires and their wealth has more than doubled. Between 2010 to 2019, only the top 1 per cent increased their share of total wealth, while it fell for everyone else.

Canadians for Tax Fairness is calling on the federal government to tackle wealth inequality with a progressive annual tax on wealth over $10 million, which it says could could generate $20 billion annually. It also wants to see a crackdown on tax havens and tax loopholes, which it says could generate billions more in revenue. The federal Liberals could be open to the ideas since they have previously pledged to tackle wealth inequality through tax reform.

“Billionaires have benefited from tax loopholes for the rich, corporate tax cuts, tax havens and the absence of wealth and inheritance taxes in Canada. The Trudeau government now has a golden opportunity to both reduce extreme wealth inequality and generate billions in revenue to help pay for the crisis and the recovery,” said Sanger.

Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.

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