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We attack financial success now?

When I checked out my local newspaper this week (The Winnipeg Free Press) I was amazed at the topic that was dominating the headlines. The new opposition leader in the Manitoba government (Brian Pallister) was under attack because he bought a two million dollar house in Winnipeg.

Mr. Pallister has a very interesting Horatio Alger-like story in that he came up rurally, and while one might not say “poor”, certainly lower-middle class. He then put himself through school, became a teacher, and then eventually achieved a variety of financial credentials before opening up his own financial services company and doing quite well for himself. His company has never been looked at for doing anything illegal or even morally wrong, and he seems relatively above suspicion – until he bought an expensive house that is.

Fair criticism?

When Mr. Pallister was questioned on the purchase he stated that he had worked hard and now intended to enjoy the fruits of his labor and give the best he could to his family. To this an actual university professor (whose salary is paid almost exclusively by the government I might add, and who would have enjoyed 7-10 years of highly subsidized post-secondary education paid for by taxpayers as well) named Shannon Sampert was quoted as saying, “For anybody who doesn’t own a $2-million home, does that mean they just didn’t work hard enough? This is sort of a continuation of this neo-liberal idea that if we just really work hard we’ll all do well and that’s not the case. We all can’t become millionaires.”

This seemed to open the flood gates as Mr. Pallister’s political opposition made hay with the angle of Pallister essentially being Manitoba’s version of Mitt Romney, and gosh how could he take care of the average voter if he was so removed them in his new mansion (it says something about us Manitobans that two-million-dollar home is seen as the ultimate luxury).

I got 99 problems but a professor isn’t one

This whole thing made me sick to my stomach. At what point did we start envying financial success so much that we decided to attack someone like Mr. Pallister? This guy isn’t a Rockefeller or a Kennedy. He wasn’t born into wealth and certainly didn’t get any more advantages along the way than the next guy did. He took a risk in starting his own business and put his personal financial well-being on the line in order to innovate and provide jobs in Manitoba.

A little jealousy is human, to tear a guy down because he can afford a nice house that is close to his place of work is another level completely in my estimation. Let’s make no mistake, what Mr. Obama said about business needing many of the supports government puts in place is absolutely true, but the flip side of that coin is that new wealth is only created when people do work extremely hard AND take risks in order to innovate and create. What Ms. Sampert (amongst others) needs to realize is that hard work should be rewarded, and yes, our country and province should work towards rewarding hard work, but hard work is not the only ingredient in becoming rich.

Jealousy – thy name is sampert

It has since been revealed that in addition to all of his income taxes that he pays this year, Mr. Pallister will owe $38,000 in property tax. That money will go towards supporting all kinds of worthy and not-so-worthy endeavors such as the salary for staff at post-secondary studies. Dressing up this naked jealousy with high-brow terms like “neo-liberalism” doesn’t change the core of what it is Ms. Sampert.

I’m all for helping out the less fortunate in society and I think our current progressive tax system does a good job of that. But don’t begrudge people their rewards after a lifetime of hard work. Maybe Mr. Pallister should give up politics and go back to education at some level. It looks like a little a common sense is needed there.


  1. Glenn Cooke

    That’s why politicians are normally not people who’ve been successful in business and managing people. They’re normally people who decided that politics was a career and a way to earn a living.

  2. Joe blowhard

    Me thinks you protest too hard. If you got your facts straight and actually researched Palliser, you will find he is a serial office seeker at all levels of govt. He did NOT grow up poor and is no one’s hero. I am neither a fan nor a foe of his, but my point is, the dog is barking and there isn’ t even a tree.

    What Palliser proved is that he is a tone deaf politician by buying a house like this just after becoming leader. Good on hIm, hope his family enjoys it and he loves paying ridiculous taxes.

    I hope your wrath is spent, and if Teacher Man actually got sick to his stomach, as he claimed, then it seems he has his own set of problems.

  3. niterainbow

    Well sooner or later this question would crop up. Either country will decide and become highly socialistic – like Sweden and the Netherlands in the western Europe with 50%+ taxes on the income or embrace the USA route with poor people sleeping on the street and die fron hunger.

    One thing the professor was pointing out that financial sector is disproportionally rewarded to most of other industry. Most recently it seemingly that the merit received is independent of the results.

    It is a hard question to ask and I am not sure whether we can solve it over here…but society as whole need to make a choice.

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