Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

PC leader defends $2-M home

Says he's not apologetic

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Maybe it was the backyard basketball court.

Maybe it was the seven-car heated garage with a loft.

Maybe it was the Assiniboine River as his backlane.

Whatever, Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister plunked down $2 million for a 9,000-square-foot mansion on Wellington Crescent in River Heights.

"I love this location," the Fort Whyte MLA said. "This is really convenient for me. I plan on jogging from there to my office. It's a beautiful neighbourhood. Heck, I could canoe to work."

Pallister said the purchase of the house -- built in 1935 on 1.7 acres of riverfront property -- for his wife and two daughters should be seen as a success story and a lesson of what hard work can accomplish.

"I'm not apologetic for the way I invest my and my family's capital," Pallister said. "I have nothing to apologize for there. I've worked and my wife Esther has worked for over 30 years, honestly and hard, building up a company from nothing, starting out of my car, and we're selling it. This is our investment. We knew we would have this capital and I'm sure not putting it into GICs."

The house was once owned by Graeme Sifton, the great grandson of Clifford Sifton, one of the original owners of the Free Press. It was originally listed in 2007 for $3.3 million. Pallister bought it Oct. 25.

He said the sale of his financial management company, Pallister Financial Group, is still in process.

"That's how we made money and this is how we invest money," he said. "Intelligently."

"To suggest that I can't defend the interests of poor people if I have a nice property, for heaven's sake, look at where I've come from and understand where my sympathies lie. I want a province where people can succeed. Is it bad to succeed? Surely not. I think it's commendable and that's what I would want other people to aspire to. That's where the Aim Higher (the PC Party's slogan under Pallister) has come from. I want a province where people can aim higher."

Shannon Sampert, an associate professor of political science at the University of Winnipeg, said it's disingenuous for Pallister to say success is based on hard work alone.

"For anybody who doesn't own a $2-million home, does that mean they just didn't work hard enough?" Sampert said. "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.

"It all comes down to who you know, who you hob-nob with, that's how you get ahead in the world. It's kind of insulting to everyone else who works hard, but lives in west Winnipeg in a $150,000 house."

Pallister said that's hogwash.

"For somebody to say he really doesn't care about poor people, well, man, that's where I grew up. I didn't have much. I hitchhiked to university. I went to night school for over 20 years."

Pallister also noted the property taxes of his new home ($38,378) should also be a symbol of success.

"If the taxes are high on the property, then is that a bad thing? I'm paying perfectly good dollars to taxes. How do you think we support all these programs?"

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 7, 2012 A2

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