The Broadbent Institute has just released a study on the distribution of wealth in Canada. Rick Smith, the institute's director, writes:
While the growing income share of the richest 1 per cent often dominates the headlines, looking at the distribution of wealth as opposed to income provides a broader view of the economic resources available to an individual or family.
A family’s wealth can be thought of as the amount of money that would be left over if they sold all their assets and paid off all their debts. Assets might include such things as houses, vehicles, stocks, bonds and savings. Debts might include mortgages, student loans or consumer debt.
For example, the wealthiest 10 per cent of Canadians accounted for almost half (47.9 per cent) of all wealth in 2012, while the poorest 10 per cent held more debts than assets.
The share of wealth at the bottom is particularly disconcerting: 30 per cent of Canadians together owned less than 1 per cent of all wealth; and the bottom half of Canadians controlled less than 6 per cent of wealth combined.
It’s important to put the distribution into context. The median wealth of the richest 10 per cent — meaning half in this group own more, half own less — was more than $2 million in 2012. In contrast, the median wealth of the poorest 10 per cent was a debt of $5,100.
Moreover, when you exclude pensions, the richest 10 per cent of Canadians own an even larger share of financial assets, which include things such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, investment funds, income trusts and tax-free savings accounts. The richest 10 per cent controlled almost $6 of every $10 (59.6 per cent) of such assets in 2012, more than the bottom 90 per cent combined.
Meanwhile, the bottom half of the population combined held less than 6 per cent of financial assets and the bottom 70 per cent of the population only 16 per cent — a clear shot across the bow of the various rosy reports trumpeting post-recession financial wealth recovery for Canadians.
When the prime minister bragged that we wouldn't recognize the country after he was through with it, he wasn't kidding. He may want to be remembered as the man who was in office when one of John Franklin's ships was discovered.
But his real legacy will be -- and is -- stunning inequality.