Sep 16, 2021
Jim Pattison warns wealth tax will lead to Canadian capital exodus
We are narrowing our focus on anything that is negative to the environment: Jim Pattison
Canadian billionaire Jim Pattison warns that recent policy proposals to tax the wealthy may lead to investment fleeing Canada, and make it harder to tackle current labour shortages.
"The people that are in business, they invest money which creates jobs," Pattison said in a wide-ranging interview on Thursday. "They should pay their fair share, but there's other alternatives. The government is taxing people that have money [and who] will go someplace else, like the United States or somewhere."
Pattison's message to the government is simple: encouraging investment will create jobs needed to help ensure Canada's economy will see a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Capital goes to where it's friendly to capital," he added. "The more you hit capital, they'll find a place that's more favourable in most cases, but capital creates jobs handled in a proper way."
Canada's federal political parties have made several policy proposals ahead of Monday's election aimed at getting the country's wealthiest individuals to pay their fair share amid an effort to help pay for key platform promises ranging from a national daycare program to building new affordable housing to Indigenous services.
Pattison, who said he hasn't voted yet but will do so next week, said the Conservative Party "sounds reasonable" in their policy proposals and "are heading in the right direction with what they're talking about."
Pattison, a 93-year-old who is also the chief executive officer of the closely held Jim Pattison Group Inc. and who ranks as one of Canada’s wealthiest individuals, said his business conglomerate - which has interests ranging from forestry to auto dealerships to hospitality - expects the group's performance "to have a pretty good year" in 2021. While the company doesn't publicly disclose its financials, the Jim Pattison Group increased its employee base by 3,000 to 51,000 in 2020 while revenue climbed by $1.8 billion to $12.7 billion, according to its website.
"We found ourselves in some very good businesses during this pandemic such as lumber and food," he said. "Cars have been very good, with automobiles both new and used. On the other side, we have things like the Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls which has been closed for almost a year and a half and is all starting to open up now."
Pattison said that tackling the current labour shortage seen across several industries, notably in manufacturing, may be key to easing the level of inflation that has seen the price of goods ranging from automobiles to food spike in recent months, as he claims government bailout programs have disincentivized people from returning to the workforce. He also noted that those government spending initiatives have also been a boon to the Jim Pattison Group's tourism portfolio with businesses like the Ripley's Believe it or Not museum chain that have "never done better" amid the pandemic recovery.
"It is difficult in the United States, in particular, to have labour, because with the amount of money that people have been able to get from the government, we've had difficulty getting our people to work in the factories," he said.
Pattison said the company may be looking to "move away" from businesses within his empire that may be environmentally adverse given how they are influencing climate change.
"We are narrowing our focus of anything that is negative to the environment," Pattison said. "The first thing we're looking at is how does this get involved as it relates positively for the environment."
"We're in businesses that haven't been as friendly to the environment as it needs to be and we're moving away from that type of industry to something that's more favourable to the climate."