Toronto businessman's companies owe more than $23M in mortgage, contracts, employee wages
CBC Toronto investigation found that Anchuan Jiang personally owns 5 properties in the city
Dozens of employees, a handful of companies, a landlord and a mortgage lender are owed a total of more than $23 million by companies owned by Toronto businessman Anchuan Jiang — a CBC Toronto investigation has found.
Former employees of Norstar Media Group Inc., one of Jiang's companies, reached out to CBC Toronto because they've been waiting two years for months of unpaid wages.
Yuzhang Wang is one of them.
The 34-year-old had recently graduated from the University of Windsor as an international student when he moved to Toronto and was hired by Norstar Media in February 2015.
It was his first job in Canada.
"At the beginning I thought this is an interesting position," said Wang, who worked as a business reporter.
But by September he says he had his first problem getting paid when his regular monthly payment was delayed a month. By March 2016, he says, the payments stopped completely.
Eventually I felt my savings shrink.- Yuzhang Wang, former Norstar Media employee
"I tried to cut my living costs," Wang told CBC Toronto. "I didn't know that I would wait a whole half a year in 2016 without pay. Eventually I felt my savings shrink."
By the time Wang quit in July 2016, he says he was owed roughly $13,000 in wages. So far he says he's received one cheque for $1,600.
CBC Toronto reached out to Jiang multiple times by phone and email, but only managed to speak with him briefly by phone.
In that call, Jiang told CBC Toronto he's currently trying to pay employees.
The Ministry of Labour says Norstar Media has complied with four orders to pay, but the company still owes more than $617,000 to employees.
It's now up to the Ministry of Finance to collect on those unpaid wages. Of the seven orders to pay sent to the Ministry of Finance, four are director's orders, which means the Ministry can go after Jiang's personal assets in those cases.
Jiang owns house in Toronto and 5 condos
Records obtained by CBC Toronto show Jiang has plenty of assets.
The businessman owns a fully-detached home in North York along with four condos in Toronto and one just outside Vancouver. Jiang also drives a 2014 BMW SUV.
Those details really upset Kuihan Wang, another former Norstar Media employee who's still out $3,000 in wages from the company.
It's like he's using our money, our salary to keep living his own life … it's not fair.- Kuihan Wang, former Norstar Media employee
"This guy is still living well," said Kuihan Wang about Jiang. "It's like he's using our money, our salary to keep living his own life … it's not fair."
Corporation records also show Norstar Media is still active — Yuzhang Wang says just before he quit Jiang was still hiring recent grads.
Yuzhang Wang's angry about that because he believes Jiang is taking advantage of young international students who need to work for a year to get permanent residency status.
"I feel like this is something that shouldn't happen in Canada," said Yuzhang Wang, who added that Jiang told him if he left he could just hire new people.
Lawyer says employers sometimes prey on immigrants
Avvy Go, clinic director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic says employers know sometimes they can get away with not paying employees if they hire vulnerable people like "immigrants, newcomers, racialized groups, women and people with disabilities."
Go says in some cases those employees are too afraid to come forward, or they don't know their rights have been violated in the first place.
"The onus should be on the employer to always obey the law," Go told CBC Toronto, suggesting the province perform regular audits of companies. "The process doesn't work because the burden falls on the individual complainants to initiate the process of complaint."
"The onus should be on the employer to always obey the law." - Avvy Go, Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian legal clinic
Two years later with a complaint filed, Yuzhang Wang says he's still hoping to get the salary back he "worked really hard for."
"I have confidence," Yuzhang Wang told CBC Toronto. "I understand at this moment he's not paying, but eventually society in Canada will force him to pay. This is not some kind of developing country."
In Go's experience about half of the time employees are able to collect their wages.
Jiang's companies owe more than $23M
But employees aren't the only ones looking for money from Jiang.
Corporation records show Jiang at the head of more than 20 federally registered companies, and at least one numbered company in Ontario.
CBC Toronto has learned that in total Jiang's companies owe at least $600,000 in unpaid civil judgments for business dealings in Ontario, and nearly $60,000 for rent at the building where Yuzhang Wang worked for Norstar Media.
But the biggest financial shortfall Jiang's facing is in connection to the former National Post head office building he bought in North York.
In December, an Ontario numbered company in Jiang's name went into receivership after failing to pay the monthly interest payments on the 157,000 square foot office building's mortgage and property taxes.
As of May 2017, Jiang's company was in nearly $22.5 million of debt to the mortgage lender, according to receivership documents. At that time the office building was essentially vacant besides a small section occupied by one of Jiang's companies.
In 2015, Jiang bought the 4.5-acre property for just over $23 million from another receivership proceeding.
Meanwhile Yuzhang Wang and Kuihan Wang say they're still waiting for enforcement action from the province for their wages.
Go says the government already has the power to prosecute employers who don't obey Ministry of Labour orders, but it doesn't happen very often.
The Ministry of Labour told CBC Toronto that a search of their database revealed that "no prosecutions have been commenced against" Jiang's companies under the Employment Standards Act.
"Unless that's a routine thing, unless the court also actually awards sufficient fines and appropriate jail sentence in the more egregious cases, people will not pay attention," said Go.
"They'll continue to treat this just like running a red light."
Nicole Brockbank can be reached at 416-205-6911 or at firstname.lastname@example.org