November 20, 2019

He could save us.

As early as tomorrow, he could swoop into Queen’s Park shouldering sacks of cash and reverse the cuts to OSAP ($670 million).

Then, with a single swipe of his credit card, he could protect our future by refunding our conservation authorities ($3.7 million) and a program that would plant 50 million trees across our province ($4.7 million).

After that, he could pay for the $133-million cut to legal aid clinics, a vital resource for students, and still have enough left over to take all of Ontario out for Big Macs to celebrate ($81.4 million plus tax).

Who is this unknown superhero who wields such awesome power to do good?

He is Billionaire Man — and unlike the Flash or Black Panther, he is no work of fiction.

In fact, there are now around 45 billionaires in Canada according to Forbes, 18 of whom live in Ontario, and most of whom are men. And their “superpower” of amassing wealth is growing.

A new Statistics Canada study says tax filers in the 0.01 per cent – people who make more than $2.7 million per year – saw their income rise by over 27 per cent between 2016 and 2017, the fourth biggest increase in 35 years. The average income of the bottom half of tax filers in that same period rose about two per cent.

The effective tax rate for the super rich also declined, from 31.3 to 30.9 per cent.

Yes, it’s good times for Billionaire Man. Surely, he’s decked out the Billionaire Cave and purchased a new Billionaire-mobile by now.

Spoke writer Patrick Spencer has money on his mind.

But some students might be wondering: Where is he during our time of need?

Collectively, Canadian students owe around $29 billion in debt, research from the Canadian Federation of Students shows.

School is also getting more expensive. Tuition for undergraduate programs went up by 3.3 per cent last year to about $7,000.

Don’t forget OSAP is in shambles. Many grants have been eliminated or replaced with loans that must be paid back with interest. For some perspective on how many students rely on that money: The president of Centennial College told the CBC last year that nine out of 10 students at their institution depended on financial aid.

In this country, it’s not hard to imagine a cash-strapped student stepping outside between classes just to look at the sky and wish each distant silhouette of a bird was Billionaire Man coming to save them.

Of course, no one is required to give away their money in Canada just because they have a lot of it. It’s the reason we have policies that ask more of the rich than the poor, such as progressive tax brackets.

Yet inequality is very real.

A 2018 report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives showed that Canada’s wealthiest 87 families have as much money as 12 million Canadians combined. The biggest contributor to that statistic is that Canada does not have an inheritance tax, unlike every other country in the G7.

Despite this, we still need to consider if income inequality is a positive trend; that it’s possible Billionaire Man’s existence is a good thing in itself.

“Taxes cannot be continually raised on top income earners without economic consequences,” reads a recent report from the Fraser Institute, a conservative thinktank.

Higher tax rates would, among other things, “dampen the incentives for income mobility.”

In other words, perhaps Billionaire Man gives us something to aspire to — the thought that we, too, could one day be billionaires — and in doing so has fulfilled his duty to society.  

Perhaps it’s perfectly fine if he speeds off into the horizon on the Billionaire Boat, his money and person never to be seen again, while the rest of us wave from the dock having only learned one lesson from this mysterious money-lover:

In Canada, the richest get richer.

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