The fortunes of Canada’s 59 billionaires have increased by $111 billion since March 2020, a new report finds — more than the $109 billion the Canadian government spent on income support for workers.

The report, produced by Oxfam International, also finds the world's 10 richest men doubled their wealth during the COVID-19 pandemic while the bottom 99 per cent were left worse off than before.

This explosion of extreme wealth among the richest of the rich — people like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates — is “unprecedented in history,” says Ian Thomson, a policy manager with Oxfam Canada.

To solve this crisis, domestically and internationally, we need new policies to curb extreme wealth and improve wealth redistribution, Thomson said.

“Poor communities are suffering more, and those tend to be racialized communities, those tend to be workers who might work part-time or work in the service industry, who are very much on the front lines of the pandemic,” said Thomson.

Meanwhile, Canada’s richest CEOs recorded their second-best year ever for compensation in 2020, according to a recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

One person dies every four seconds due to inequality, according to Oxfam, which it says is a “conservative finding” based on deaths globally from lack of access to health care, gender-based violence, hunger, and climate breakdown.

The report’s release coincides with the start of the weeklong World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, a virtual meeting where economic and political leaders gather to take stock of the global economy.

International co-operation is key to address this problem at a global scale, said Thomson, including on measures such as taxing multinational corporations and improving access to COVID-19 vaccines.

“We'd really like to see Canada join other countries in changing the trade rules so it's easier to manufacture and distribute vaccines more widely,” he said.

The fortunes of Canada’s 59 billionaires have increased by $111 billion since March 2020, a new report finds — more than the $109 billion the Canadian government spent on income support for workers, according to a new report by @Oxfam. #cdnpoli

To tackle income inequality at home, the Canadian government could introduce a wealth tax and use the revenue for nurses, hospitals, vaccines, and other measures to support Canadians most impacted by these dual crises, said Thomson.

Because racialized people, women, and the working class are disproportionately affected, any programs designed with revenue from a wealth tax need to address root causes of inequality, said Thomson: for example, ending gender-based violence.

Canadian communities are not immune to the deadly effects of inequality. As NDP MP Jenny Kwan puts it: “Lives are in the balance.”

A lack of affordable housing and the homelessness experienced by people in her Vancouver East riding highlight the issues brought forward by reports like Oxfam’s, said Kwan.

People died in their homes during the heat dome that blanketed British Columbia in late June, and now, she said, at least one person has frozen to death in the unusually cold winter temperatures.

Low-income seniors are another group Kwan said is affected by the pandemic and worsening income inequality.

“I have had seniors come to my office in despair because their GIS (Guaranteed Income Support) has been cut and they don't know what to do. The rent is due and they have no other option,” said Kwan. “I've had seniors who've received eviction (notices) as a result of that … and been evicted and rendered homeless.”

The NDP has consistently pushed for a wealth tax, closing corporate tax loopholes, and providing a guaranteed livable basic income.

In the 2021 election, a one per cent tax on wealth over $10 million was a key plank of the NDP platform. Leader Jagmeet Singh also previously made an opposition day motion to implement a one per cent tax on wealth over $20 million.

“The recovery from this pandemic is going to cost us, but it should be paid for by those who profited off of this pandemic, not Canadian families who have been struggling,” reads a statement from Daniel Blaikie, the NDP’s finance critic. “It’s time the Liberals stood up for everyday Canadians instead of protecting their rich friends.”

Building “a more prosperous future for all Canadians” and “addressing income inequality” is a focus of the federal government, Adrienne Vaupshas, spokesperson for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, said in an emailed statement.

“This includes introducing measures like a tax cut for the middle class and the Canada Child Benefit — policies voted against by the Conservatives and New Democrats,” the statement reads. Other measures mentioned include taxing multinational digital giants, a luxury tax, and limiting stock option deductions in the largest companies.

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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I object to the unsubstantiated claims in this article. Musk did not double his wealth due to the pandemic, the market value of his company doubled due to the acceptance of many investors that his attempt to accelerate the shift to more sustainable transportation and slow clmate change was working.
Also it's a meaningless statistic that x number of people per second or minute are dying from something, without some context and explanation.
Come on N O, let's not secome me to sensational journalism.

Ummm ... pot:kettle??? Perhaps provide a basis for the protest against statistics readily obtainable searching reliable sources on the internet.
(And don't forget that Musk built everything on taxpayer dollars ... and gets preferential tax treatment as do all billionnaires -- or even avoids taxes all together.)
And what does "secome" mean? I've checked both online and physical dictionaries, to no avail.

Sensational Journalism?
I have heard that from people like you for the last 30 years. Here is the deal - you can think whatever you want but sooner or later, like history has shown us, a revolution will forcibly take down this idiotic New-Liberal crap and allow people to have a decent life. The fact that one person is allowed to accumulate billions on the way to trillions is in itself a complete absurd even if it is legitimate, which I doubt.

And where did all the money come from that those people invested? Stock markets are awash in cash, there's a speculative frenzy. Much of this cash comes from central banks--quantitative easing, bailouts and so forth. The pandemic has provided a wonderful excuse for governments to shovel money to the already fabulously wealthy.
A fair bit of it comes from money made the old fashioned way--cartels of firms agreeing to all jack prices up together so profits can increase, rather than competing on price. The past few decades of takeovers have seen many sectors dominated by a smaller and smaller number of firms, and lately this seems to have reached critical mass, creating more and more opportunities for monopoly pricing. We've started to call the results "inflation".

Between those two factors there is a ton of speculative investment cash floating about. Good on Musk I suppose for successfully attracting more of it than anyone else. Musk isn't the problem--if anything, I notice that among that top ten list of richest men (and they're all men), Musk is actually the only one involved in producing anything useful--most of the rest are from tech giants, one is the CEO of a company that sells branded crap to rich people. Nonetheless, the huge inflation in his fortunes is a very visible SYMPTOM of a problem, and that problem is huge, perhaps the biggest problem in the world today. In a sense bigger than climate change, in that massive inequality resulting in disproportionate political power for the very wealthy is the major factor blocking climate change action.

I agree. It is far too easy to start tossing numbers around. Anyone who knows anything about statistical analysis knows that numbers can be made to say anything you want. ....a one per cent tax on wealth over $10 million" for example.... how is this wealth number measured? We must be very careful that we do not tax ourselves to the extent that there is no environmental work being invested in or investment in new ideas that increase the GDP for instance. We must recognize that these billionaires are ... aside from becoming extremely wealthy also create the future direction industry will take. Governments are hopelessly inadequate when such items as "job creation" are spoken about. My point being... I don't want to discover in the future that we now have a "Joseph Stalin" running our country.

I'd note that GIS payments are reduced by 50% of taxable income.
I'd have qualified for the CERB, but it was made very clear that it would be considered to be *taxable* income.
Having lived in poverty for a long, long time (before the first $5000 of self-employment income was deductible from the tax-back calculation), I was painfully aware that my own best bet was to struggle along with less cash flow ... my sole reason for being my age and still working ... because it was do it now, or have it done to me a year later.
It's always been interesting to me that in every other aspect of "the economy" and government spending, the hue and cry is always to "bring up the bottom."
And yet, the poorest seniors (those with only OAS and GIS) received less than the amount it cost to have groceries brought to them while they were "locked in," for most of the duration of the pandemic. To say nothing of the wild profit margins in supermarket markups.
Or the huge numbers of seniors in long-term care homes, who were locked in their rooms with no care, no food, no water and no communication. If that happened in any other country, Canadian governments would have screamed bloody murder, accusations of Human Rights violations. In Canada? Not so much: after all, a dead senior saves the government money.
And then there's this year's restructuring of the CPI: Trudeau promised a separate, low-income CPI. Instead, we got a calculation that depresses calculated CPI even further, compared to real cost increases.
The effect will worsen once interest rates rise. And while the greatest increases were felt in November and December, those won't enter the calculations till next year, when the mortgage rate increases will pull the final number down.
Again, it's the poor who get screwed over the most. Don't truncate the old saw: continue it to the end! The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.
I am told there were no increases in social assistance rates during the pandemic, no increases in the rates paid to people with disabilities who were unable to work. In Ontario, those rates are equivalent to less than $5 and $7/hr respectively, including average supplementary benefits.
Renovictions continue apace, and landlords use every excuse possible to boot tenants out of rent-controlled units, because they can charge the next tenant whatever they want.
Poor people spend as much as 80% of their income on housing: they have no choice. Going to food banks exposes them disproportionately to the ravages of Covid: and people who "look poor" are treated in emergency wards as badly as First Nations people and people of color. *Even* when someone who looks middle class accompanies them. As long as they're out of sight-line, or earshot.
Homeless people are a special case, and are treated even worse. The "charities" who run shelters get a whopping amount of $$ for cots lined up like in an army field hospital tent: no privacy, no safe place to put their minimal belongings, no safety from predators or people suffering psychotic episodes or bouts of PTSD. Let alone safety if they are one of such people.
None of them have any political influence at all. And the CRA makes it so that if they *had* a dollar or two to contribute to a political party, their dollar is worth a small fraction of the dollar donated by someone with even an average income, let alone a "rich" person. Why? It's only partly because of the dollar effect of the credit on someone with a higher marginal tax rate. It's mainly because the credit is non-refundable: no "government contribution" at all unless you earn enough to have income tax payable. That wipes out seniors with only OAS and GIS, as well.
In contrast to media treatment of measures that benefit or are of detriment to "the working class" or "the middle class," there was no mention at all when either federal or provincial governments converted tax credits that used to be refundable credits, to non-refundable. That includes allowable medical expenses. Until Doug Ford, there was a teeny tiny refund available to poor people. That's gone. No one mentioned it. Poor people found out when they filed their taxes, or got the assessment notice.

None of the political parties at all give a damn about poverty. Unless there's something in it for their favored constituencies.

In over 30 years of watching changes in taxation, etc., I have seen exactly zero changes that improved the lot of poor people, whle every single one of them further eroded resources available to The Poor.

So as far as "build back better" goes ... better for whom? The old, poor and disabled? Or only the old with assets, the poor who are exploitable, and the disabled high on the hierarchy of disability, those readily employable (for whose wages business is paid a contribution by taxpayers), or those who've been challenged but not acutely disabled by their infirmity.

The stats are there. The history is there. I'm not making it up.

So as far as the political system goes, as afar as "representtion" goes ... no one actually cares about the poor. *Includng* many of the non-profits and agencies who purport to "speak for them," but who have been very successful in negotiating above-average pay increases for themselves, but ... nothing for those they "speak for." For decades.

Nordvie - it is hard to mostly agree with you because we are discussing such despicable events in our own society. Like you , I am sick and tired of watching our government pointing fingers to other countries and do worse at home. Spending close to 30 Billion dollars in Afghanistan when the most basic simple right of access to water for our First Nations is still a problem. Our seniors are getting evicted from their homes because they can no longer afford a rent. Our Young people are barely making it. The story goes on.
This all a result of a failing democratic system that does not work and is nothing but the representation of economic interests of the Canadian Elites and in our case we love to have around other powerful elites from around the world, after all we are a multicultural society.
Yes I agree we are in a political crisis way more deep than what we think. Again we look at Russia and the actual joke that it is but we have to look at ourselves and realize that our joke is not much different. Russian society is controlled by their Mafias (elites in Russia) versus us controlled by Companies and their elites now being compensated like the princes of the old world. Our system is more progressive of course but that does not mean that is less corrupt.

There is a reason the rich got richer during the pandemic. It's because they are writing the rules. Very quickly the whole world went into high gear implementing pretty much the same strategy to Covid. That's because there were several meetings/simulations planning for a pandemic. The latest one was Event 201 (google it....it's a thing.)I'm very surprised it hasn't been covered in the news when we are all wondering about some of the protocols being taken, like small businesses being shut down but huge one's staying open. I have no doubt that those putting on these events have their own best interests at heart. From it's website: "The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted Event 201, a high-level pandemic exercise on October 18, 2019, in New York, NY. The exercise illustrated areas where public/private partnerships will be necessary during the response to a severe pandemic in order to diminish large-scale economic and societal consequences." Public private partnerships are often a transfer of wealth.