February 29th, 2024

Carols, poems and partisan cheer in the House of Commons as Christmas approaches

By Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press on December 19, 2023.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – “Merry Christmas, everybody! Merry Christmas. Are we still allowed to say Merry Christmas in Justin Trudeau’s Canada?”

That’s how Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre greeted his caucus, and the group of reporters and cameras he invited to join them, at a meeting on Dec. 6.

But Poilievre needn’t have feared. “Merry Christmas” was said in the House of Commons many times, many ways (52 times, to be precise) as MPs from all political stripes got into the spirit of the season.

Over the last several weeks, self-styled political poets poked partisan fun in the House of Commons with their riffs on the classic 1823 poem “The Night Before Christmas.”

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis took aim at federal carbon pricing: “‘Twas the night before Christmas when the members across / Doubled down on their plan to keep raising costs / They set out to do it by taxing the carbon / On the hard-working people who do all the farming.”

Liberal MP Darren Fisher’s version took shots at the Conservatives, the NDP, the Bloc Québécois and even the Speaker, Greg Fergus, who had just apologized to a House committee for making a video that was shown at a partisan event.

“But now it’s time to return to our ridings / And share with our friends the best Christmas tidings / And Mr. Speaker, I know that you’ll hate to see us go / If you think of us over Christmas, please don’t send us a video,” said Fisher. (Fergus replied: “That is very good advice.”)

Don Davies brought his own rhyming couplets that day from the NDP benches, where members were celebrating the government’s announced dental care plans.

“Public dental for all is the NPD’s dream / We’d have pharmacare, too, if the Grits weren’t so mean / And one final wish for this season of light / Happy holidays to all, and to all a good bite.”

Colin Carrie was one of a couple of Tories to point out their leader’s refreshed look: “But up from the Opposition benches did appear / A common-sense leader with no glasses this year! / No more scandals, mismanagement, no ethical lapses / I’ll build you more homes and axe carbon taxes.'”

The carbon price was a common theme in this year’s holiday greetings from the floor of the House.

Poilievre accused the government of offering Canadians “a carbon tax lump of coal” this year, prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to respond that Conservative climate policies are “putting future white Christmases at risk.”

“That is why, on this side of the House, we stand for Christmas,” Trudeau said.

That did little to settle the debate, and MPs had a good bit of fun comparing the prime minister to holiday villains. “Why does he not be a little less like Scrooge and a little more like Santa Claus?” Poilievre asked.

“I have it on good authority that the prime minister’s favourite Christmas movie is ‘The Grinch.’ In fact, it may be where the prime minister came up with the idea for his carbon tax: Just like the Grinch took the food off the plates of the Whos in Whoville, the prime minister is also a fan of taking food off the plates of Canadians,” Conservative MP Glen Motz said.

It was actually Motz’s own party that pledged to ruin Christmas this year – at least for the Liberals and Trudeau.

Poilievre promised during that Dec. 6 caucus meeting to keep the government from taking a holiday break until it agreed to a set of carbon-price carveouts. Without support from the rest of the parties, the Tories couldn’t keep that pledge, instead forcing a 30-hour voting marathon. Late in the votes, Steven MacKinnon said he and his fellow Liberals were “jingle-belling our way through.”

It wasn’t all partisanship and bluster. Many MPs offered heartfelt thanks to their hometown charities for helping ensure Canadians can enjoy the season, and sharing what the holidays mean to them.

And as House proceedings wrapped up for another year, Conservative MP Fraser Tolmie told a heartwarming tale from one of his own Christmases past.

“In 1973, Audrey Martin knew her neighbour was an unemployed, single mother who had recently lost a child. Her neighbour had very little in her cupboards and nothing under the tree for her three-year-old son. On Christmas Eve, Audrey Martin showed up at her neighbour’s door with a Christmas miracle,” he said.

“Her small act of kindness has never been forgotten, and my mother and I will be eternally grateful for the donations of food and gifts she had collected from our neighbours to put under our tree.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2023.

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