Corporate execs had a windfall in 2021 – how did you do?

Working people seem to be under the impression that times are tough under the COVID-inspired economic crisis. This publication itself has used up loads of ink writing about low wages, lost jobs, increasing prices and debt…

Clearly, though, we were all mistaken – it seems that times aren’t that tough at all.

A recently published report shows that Canada’s top corporate executives reaped an absolute windfall of money last year, all by selling company shares that had soared in value through 2021.

Shopify founder Tobi Lutke hit paydirt by netting a cool $623 million, almost $170 million beyond the next closest capitalist. That person was Philip Fayer, founder and CEO of electronic payment processor Nuvei, who skipped to the bank with his pockets full of $455 million. 

The combined payout of the top 15 executives was just under $2.9 billion.

What’s really important here is that this money is the direct result of buoyant share prices – meaning that corporations have, by and large, enjoyed a very healthy recovery from COVID and the related economic meltdown. 

So, if the economy is doing so well, where do workers land on that windfall list? According to Statistics Canada, the average wage for all workers increased last year by (wait for it) $0.48. That’s right, while former CEO of Restaurant Brands International (Tim Horton’s parent company) Daniel Schwartz hauled off an extra $50.4 million last year, the people who made that money for him saw their income increase by less than $20 per week. In fact, when inflation is factored in, they saw a net loss.

And doesn’t that just tell you everything you need to know about capitalism? The vast majority works to produce tremendous wealth which the tiny minority takes. But when the upside-down-triangle system gets all wobbly, the government steps in with money from the vast majority to make sure that the tiny minority’s profits are protected. Then, the vast majority has to work harder to make up for the money it lost when (a) the upside-down-triangle system got all wobbly and (b) when the government took all its money to protect the tiny minority’s profits. And the harder the vast majority works, the more tremendous wealth it produces for the tiny minority.

So, what’s the way off this horrific treadmill? 

It certainly isn’t through right-wing populist drivel, like that spewed from the exhaust pipes of the “Freedom Convoy.” Division, hate, anti-scientific conspiracies and scapegoating only serve to weaken the working-class movement and reinforce capitalism – these are, in fact, the ruling class’s go-to tools when there is a crisis.

The way forward is through class struggle. The working class needs to unite and lead the people in a fight that puts their needs before corporate profit. This means demanding a $23 minimum wage and general wage increases, employment insurance that pays a livable income to all unemployed workers, rollbacks and controls on rents and basic commodities, and expanded and well-funded healthcare and social programs like childcare.

We’re told, over and over again, that the money for these things just doesn’t exist. But it sure exists for the top 15 corporate execs who potted a handy $2.9 billion in bonuses last year.

It’s time for workers to call out this system and its lies. It’s time for workers to put themselves on the windfall list.  

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