Covid-19 drowns billionaires in more billions

Loblaw billionaire CEO Galen Weston Jr. raked in a cool $1.6 billion

GALEN WESTON IS LAUGHING ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK—AGAIN. So are 20 of Canada’s biggest billionaires.

The last six months have been an economic catastrophe for most Canadians. But for Canada’s top 20 billionaires our disaster has beem their cash cow. Seventeen of the top 20 have racked up an average of just under $2 billion in wealth gains each since the start of the covid lockdown in March. A massive combined total of $37 billion.

The Thomson family topped the list with an estimated $8.8 billion increase in wealth; followed closely by Shopify’s Tobi Lutke with a $6.6 billion increase.

Lululemon founder Chip Wilson racked up a $2.80 billion gain. Gassy and greasy, the two Irving oil and gas brothers, teamed up for a $3.2 billion total windfall.

Loblaw owner Galen Weston had his wealth balloon by $1.6 billion. Yet he cancelled a $2 an hour pay top-up for front-line workers, who continue to risk their health and the health of their loved ones by going to work in his stores. All other major grocery chains also cut the top-up.

Members of Parliament grilled several corporate executives in the grocery industry in July about the coincidence in the timing of the pay cuts. The grocers denied any collusion and did not restore the pandemic pay. The share price of the Loblaw grocery and drug store chain shot up after their June pay cut.


Meanwhile, 1.8 million 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 have lost half or more of their usual hours due to the pandemic.

Low-wage workers have been hit hardest, with employment among those making less than $16.03 per hour still substantially below the pre-pandemic level.

Canadians are frequently told that “we’re all in this together” when it comes to the COVID-19 crisis. It is true anyone can get sick. However, the explosion in the wealth of billionaires in this time of extreme crisis magnifies just one of the ways a wealthy minority lives in a very different world.

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