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I've known both the broadcaster Evan Solomon and the art dealer Bruce Bailey for many years and although they could not be more different, if I had to choose a single adjective to describe either of them it would be the same: Ambitious.

It was Bailey, a glamorously eccentric Canadian art dealer with a background in finance and a love of parties, who prompted me to write my first novel. At some party in my twenties, he gave me a piece of advice that rang in my ears for years: "You have a nice little career going, darling," he said, "but you need to write a book or something. No risk, no reward."

He was right, of course, but what he didn't add was that many risks that promise reward are also rather, er, risky. I'm not talking about writing novels but much riskier risks, such as the kind that involve violating contract terms with the public broadcaster with whom you've built your career and reputation. In Solomon's case, CBC fired the Power & Politics host earlier this week amid allegations he used his influence as a journalist to introduce Bailey to high-powered art buyers, such as Bank of England governor Mark Carney, in exchange for secret commissions.

If Solomon and Bailey hadn't fallen out so spectacularly and publicly, slapping each other with extortionate lawsuits and settling out of court, I imagine their mutually beneficial agreement would probably never have come to light. Solomon I know less well, but he always struck me as good news. Gregarious, handsome and clever, I remember what a force of nature he was back in the days of his digital culture magazine Shift, which he started straight out of university with his friend Andy Heintzman. The room darkened when he walked into it: He radiated a singular desire for something beyond what the rest of us seemed to crave.

You got the sense that a house, a wife, a couple of kids and a "nice little career" in the Canadian media simply wasn't going to cut it. He was always several strides ahead of his peers when it came to the trappings of adult success. He'd started a magazine, written a book, hosted a TV show, bought a house, married and had kids before most of us could even get our heads screwed on straight.

In the wake of both the Senate and Ghomeshi scandals, there has been a significant shift in the way Canadian news outlets cover the political and media elites. There was a time, not so long ago, when these stories might never have come to light. Today, no one is safe. The ambitious and powerful in our country are being taken to task. This will inevitably be called "tall poppy syndrome" at certain catered dinner parties, but in fact it's nothing of the sort. Canadians tend not to like rising stars, but once someone has truly risen, we tend to treat them as sacred cows and their status as sacrosanct.

This, I suspect, is precisely why so many famous and successful Canadians, as it's recently emerged, seem to feel comfortable doing things in private that would have had them publicly shamed. They feel protected because they're special and important – at least in their own minds – so the normal rules don't seem to apply. Until, of course, they do.

Shining a light on the misdeeds of the establishment is undeniably a good thing. At the very least, tales such as these can make us seriously question the values that guide us.

The day after the Solomon story broke, activist and writer George Monbiot published a column in the Guardian criticizing the culture of "aspirational parenting," which prizes material success and achievement over all else. And ultimately for what? "In the cause of self-advancement, we are urged to sacrifice our leisure, our pleasures and our time with partners and children, to climb over the bodies of our rivals and to set ourselves against the common interests of humankind," he writes. "And then? We discover that we have achieved no greater satisfaction than that with which we began."

When we watch hugely successful people risk it all for just a little bit more, should we really be surprised? Once we all get past the gossip and the schadenfreude of the Solomon scandal, perhaps we could take a lesson from watching the ambitious and accomplished among us ultimately fall from grace. The burning desire that's driving the aspirational few, the urge to be part of the elite, doesn't seem to make people happy. It only makes people want more and more and more. And for some, in the end, they end up with less than nothing to show for it.