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VanRaes: Pallister's two-month Costa Rica trip a slap in the face to working Manitobans

The vast majority of Manitobans work hard, but very few are able to spend two months a year developing properties in the sunny climes of Central America.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister


Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister

In a perfect world, I would spend more time travelling. 

My parents were and are consummate hippy travellers. They hitch-hiked through North Africa in the 70s, lived in Spain as Francisco Franco died and wandered their way through South America. Last summer they backpacked through Ghana, occasionally calling me from strange phone numbers, giving me crackling updates on their journey when I was least prepared to hear them.

If my mom had her way they'd never come home.

But as farmers and parents — and later on as employees of other businesses — their journeys were carefully planned around vacation time, seasonal work, budgetary concerns and the general responsibilities of daily life. For nearly two decades they didn't travel at all.

Clearly, I inherited the travel bug, but sadly the sun had long set on the old hippy trail by the time I came of age.

Naively I hoped a career in journalism would be my ticket to see the world, blissfully unaware of impending economic collapse that I was. In fairness, my work reporting on agriculture has taken me to amazing places, including New Zealand and Zambia, but generally I split my few weeks of yearly vacation between visiting family and finishing projects at home.

If only I had a job with little responsibility, a position tied to no geographic location that I could do from a warm and sunny destination — you know, a job like being Premier of Manitoba.

After months of obfuscation, Premier Bran Pallister finally came clean about the amount of time he spends in Costa Rica. Speaking to the Canadian Press during a year end interview, Pallister said he'll be there between six and eight weeks each year.

But don't worry, it's ok because he works really hard.

I mean the single parent who spends 60 hours a week at three minimum wage job to make ends meet works really hard too, as does the man in his 50s working the night shift or the woman on her feet all day in retail, but let's be clear here — Pallister deserves his two months of vacation each year, Pallister men only want to be known as hard workers, he has said so himself.

Who knows, maybe the man who loathes organized labour even more than he hates Halloween will surprise us all. Maybe the real reason Pallister wants to open up the province's collective agreements is so he can give everyone two months of vacation?

Not likely.

Most Canadians who work full-time are entitled to two weeks of paid vacation a year, but those working part-time, juggling more than one job or working contract to contract may end up getting no actual vacation time at all. Many employees don't get vacation time in their first year of employment either, which might have been fine 20 years ago when more people had life-time employers, but not today as folks move from job to job to job.

So to hear Pallister say he deserves four times as much vacation as the average Manitoban, because he works hard, is a slap in the face. And that the same man who wants to freeze public sector wages with legislation, who gave himself a 20-per-cent pay wage increase, defends spending two months outside of the province he is supposed to represent is pure hypocrisy.

Escaping the Canadian winter isn't the rite of citizenship it's often portrayed as, it's the result of many factors, including privilege and labour law. The vast majority of Manitobans work hard, but very few are able to spend two months a year developing properties in the sunny climes of Central America. 

Yet Pallister continues to promote his own noteworthiness and work ethic as the reason he deserves so much more than the people he was elected to represent. Truthfully, the only exceptional thing about our premier is his gall.

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