Canada has a population of just under 35 million. Recently one of the country’s top papers, the Globe and Mail in Toronto, published an article reporting that 11.4 million people - that's about 32.6% of the nation’s citizens - have a combined net-worth equaling that of Canada’s 86 wealthiest people, or .00025% (one-fortieth of a percentage) of the population. In other words, one-fortieth of 1% of the country’s entire population holds the same financial worth as roughly 33% of the population.
One wonders if numbers were crunched for third-world and even fourth-world countries, the percentages would greatly differ? Perhaps so, but it is still an astonishing statistic, showing that Canada, like the rest of the world, suffers from a massive divide between the haves and the have-nots. Capitalism seems to be one system that is alive and well, surviving amongst the rise and fall of so many other ideological regimes. This may be why many of the world’s most respected philosophers and financial gurus, among others, think corporations will be (if they are not already) the next phase of world leaders, replacing state and government, and before them, the Church.
What is it like to have, on average, as much money as 133,000 people combined? This is an average taken for Canada’s 86 wealthiest, but in this article we are looking only at the 10 wealthiest; and even among these 10 individuals their net worths vary by a difference of $22 billion. At least a few of the individuals featured here easily have more money than over a million of their countrymen, combined.
These Canadian billionaires are in the almost unique position of being able to buy, go, or do whatever they want, whenever, for any length of time. Although this does not guarantee a worry-free life, for surely with these amounts come major stressors, the following 10 people belong to a category that to most of us seems magically charmed. Pack your bag and go. Never cook or clean again. These 10 individuals (or families) have all that luxury, and more.
10 Carlo Fidani $4.1 billion
In 1948 Fidani and Sons, a construction company, was founded in Toronto by Fidani’s grandfather, also named Carlo. Fidani’s father, Orey, died in 2000, leaving the business to his son who now has full ownership. The company, now known as Orlando Corp, has evolved into a construction, development and management firm. In excess of 40 million square feet of commercial, industrial and office space in Toronto is owned, leased or managed by the business, which has its majority in industrial distribution centers. Fidani donates extensively to hospital foundations and medical education in the Greater Toronto region.
9 Richardson Family $4.4 billion
This Winnipeg-based Richardson family has been in the grain-exporting business since the mid-19th century. The company is today the largest grain company in the British Commonwealth, and in the last few years branched out into wealth management by adding to its portfolio the firm of Macquarie Group Ltd., with a purchase value of $132 million in 2009. This merger, made successful by VP Royden Richardson, was clouded by the sudden death of Royden last May, when he was in a fatal car accident driving a jeep he had rebuilt at the age of 15.
8 Jeffrey S. Skoll $4.91 billion
This self-made bachelor was born in Montreal and paid for his first degree pumping gas while attending the University of Toronto. He went on to do an MBA at Stanford in California where he now lives. Since then, Skoll became eBay’s first employee and President after meeting its founder, Pierre Omidyar. Skoll left eBay, where he made much of his fortune, in 2001. Since then he has concentrated on his self-named foundation, which he formed to affect social change. This entrepreneur now uses his savvy to back up-and-coming, socially inclined entrepreneurs who foster improvements in the areas of health and education in some of the world’s poorest nations.
7 Estate of Paul Desmarais, Sr. $4.93 billion
86-year-old magnate Paul Desmarais died in 2013, while still major shareholder of Power Corp, the dynasty he created. Demarais accredited much of his success to the fact that as a French-Canadian born and raised in Ontario, he never felt comfortable either there or in Quebec, as he did not feel entirely integrated into any one place. He believed being an outsider gave him a visionary edge, literally — that the view from without allowed him to see the opportunities he took, beginning with the purchase of his father’s failing bus line as a young man and continuing throughout his life with this approach, turning bankruptcy and strife into massive success. He placed his sons at the helm of the family business years before his death. No mention is made of any role played by his daughters.
6 Saputo Family $5.2 billion
This family, originally from a town near Sicily, Italy, moved to Canada in the 1950s and a few years later took their craft of cheese-making into the community when they started their own business, delivering their wares by bicycle. Half a century later, or thereabouts, the Saputo name is synonymous with food and fine cheeses. The company is involved in many real-estate projects in the Montreal area, where they live, and also controls soccer’s Montreal Impact, a team that plays in Major League Soccer. In 2014 the company acquired an Australian cheese company, showing that they're still going strong.
5 James Pattison $7.4 billion
This magnate surely comes from cold climes, as illustrated by his business’s “snowball” effect (!). Pattison began with a car dealership in 1961 and by the end of the ’60s had added a grocery store, newspaper and radio companies, and an advertising company to his repertoire. Perhaps the original “Mad Man,” Pattison went on over the next several decades to keep growing bigger, acquiring fishing, shipping and finance assets. In the 2000s the group rolled into entertainment and capped this all off with packaging, as well. In December 2013 Pattison was discovered to be the wealthiest man in Canada. Although there are families with a higher amount in total funds, no one person’s holdings within the family groupings matches Pattison’s personal wealth.
4 Rogers Family $7.6 billion
In Canada this company is synonymous with “The Man,” as everyone knows the name of the Rogers family’s telecommunications giant. Rogers is one of Canada’s main contenders in internet, television and cable services. In 1925 the first holding of this entrepreneurial family was a vacuum tube company. They started a radio station that was eventually bought out and in 1960 Rogers Radio Broadcasting Ltd. was founded. The family has never looked back, acquiring yet more stations, and subsequently launching cable operations, which grew over the years to include Internet and cell phone. Rogers, Sr. was the person who first made it possible for radio to be hooked up to regular electricity in the home, causing subsequent radio invention to change forever.
3 Irving Family $7.9 billion
The Irving family started out in Canada in the 19th century when, newly arrived from Scotland, they were in lumber and farming, and owned one general store. In around 1920 they bought into the oil industry, where they made - and still make - a great deal of their fortune, with Canada’s largest refinery as well as gas stations throughout Canada and parts of the U.S. The family still owns land used for forestry and timber, and has added to the food growing and selling side of things with over 20 frozen food companies and their own shipping, to boot.
2 Galen Weston & Family $10.4 billion
This magnate’s wealth also began in 19th-century Canada, this time in retail food. Weston is a well-known name in breads and other packaged items in Canada. Weston serves as Executive Chairman in the company begun by his grandfather, and his son, Galen, Jr., oversees their retail-food giant, Loblaws, along with its new division, Shoppers Drug Mart after a 2013 buy-out. The family also has considerable holdings in real estate, and owns the Selfridges Group, with Ogilvy’s and Holt Renfrew department stores in Canada, Selfridges in the UK (yes! as in the BBC miniseries), Brown Thomas in Ireland, and de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands. Weston’s daughter recently was made deputy chair of the Selfridges Group. Who says boys have all the fun!
1 Thomson Family $26.1 billion
With a fortune made in publishing and media, this third-generation family business is currently run by private-holding company Woodbridge. Woodbridge owns 55% of Thomson Reuters, where David Thomson serves as chair. His brother Peter serves as co-chair of Woodbridge, and assets are held by all grandchildren of the first generation Thomson. Roughly 70% of their fortune is in Thomson Reuters, which increased significantly in 2013. Woodbridge has a small stake in NHL’s Montreal Canadiens and David Thomson, individually (and divorced, ladies!) is part-owner of the Winnipeg Jets. He is also an art lover, with an assortment reportedly including Picasso as well as the world’s No. 1 collection of pieces by John Constable, noted English Romantic painter.