Blogs & Comment

CHART: Canada’s richest are not as wealthy as you think

But they’re still pretty rich


The rich are indeed getting richer, but the wealthiest people in Canada are worth far less than the average Canadian believes.

Average Canadians think the country’s 100 richest individuals and families control a disproportionate portion of the nations wealth—40% in fact, according to an exclusive poll conducted for Canadian Business by Forum Research. The majority of respondents also think the wealth of this group jumped by 32% in the past year.

While there is no question that the Rich 100 does control a significant portion of the wealth in Canada, it’s hardly that high. Let’s put that figure context: 40% of the nation’s wealth would be worth $2 trillion based on the nation’s collective net worth of $5.58 trillion, according to data complied by Environics Analytics. If that were the case the average member of the Rich 100 would have a net worth north of $10 billion. In reality, only two members of the Rich 100—the Thomson family (No. 1 on the Rich 100) and Galen Weston (No. 2)—can claim to cross that threshold.

That’s not to suggest the wealth in Canada isn’t heavily skewed. The top 0.001%—which make up the Rich 100—is collectively worth $230 billion, or about 4% of the nation’s wealth, based on figures provided by Environics Analytics which doesn’t factor in things like pensions, insurance and non-real estate assets like cars and collectibles. On an individual basis that puts the average net worth of the Rich 100 closer to $2-billion.

For most of us these figures are impossible to comprehend. The following example might help: $2-billion in rolled up loonies would stretch 3,900 kilometers, or the distance from Toronto to Halifax—and back again. Still not impressed? A stack of $10,000 in loonies would only stand about 20 metres high.

Although the top 0.001% may not control 40% of the nation’s wealth the top 10% of the population more or less does. When the nation’s population is broken into ten equal groups, the top tier controls 35% of the wealth in Canada.

The concentration of wealth in the top 10% can’t be overstated. The collective value of investments, properties and other assets minus liabilities controlled by this group is equal to the total net worth of 70% of the population. The average the net worth of the top 10% of households is about $1.4 million, which is double the average wealth of the second richest 10% households in the country ($633,000).

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the overwhelming majority (86%) of Canadians feel there is a growing income gap in Canada. This is heightened by the fact that the rich seem to be getting richer at breakneck speeds.

The evidence seems to back this up, although perhaps not to the degree that many think. According data collected by Forum Research the average Canadian thinks the Rich 100 grew their wealth by a third last year. While Rich 100 proved they are astute wealth builders, the actual growth rate isn’t quite that high.

Despite a mediocre year in Canadian equity markets, the Rich 100 saw their net worth jump by an average of 15%, although there were certainly some individuals who blew that figure out of the water.

Key facts on wealth in Canada

  • The top 10% richest households in Canada have $774,000 in liquid assets (stocks, bonds, etc.), own more than $800,000 in real estate and carries more than $225,000 in debt
  • 50% of the population controls 80% of the wealth
  • The bottom 10% of the population has an average net worth of just under $57,000 and carries $36,000 in debt