I am not one of those people who complains about the early onset of holidays. Halloween decorations in August, Valentines chocolates in November, it can never be early enough. The world lacks gaiety as it is. So when I heard about Christmas in July, I thought: Bring it on! Christmas in July does not, of course, refer to the wonderful 1940 Preston Sturges movie in which a poor schmo is suddenly showered with unexpected cash and has to give it all back shortly after. No, it refers to the millions of Canadian parents who were showered with unexpected cash this week and will have to give it back at tax time.
Excitement was high in our house as we set our NORAD Santa Tracker to follow the movements of our very own Father Christmas, Pierre Poilievre. "By day, he's the hard-working Minister of Employment and Social Development," I told my children, "but a Christmas miracle occurs precisely four months before a federal election, when he is transformed into a jolly country-spanning Saint Nick, dropping cheques on all the hard-working, tax-paying parents of the land. He dons a lovely red suit, or sometimes a branded blue Conservative T-shirt, which does not actually say 'Vote Tory' in sequins across the back, but still helps get the message across."
I set them to writing their Christmas letters. "Dear Nepean-Carleton Santa," they wrote. "We want to thank you for your generous gift, even though Mom tells us that we don't live in a riding that votes Tory, and won't until there are palm trees in Iqaluit (whatever that means). We understand that the wisest decisions about spending are made by hard-working tax-paying moms and dads, not the government.
"Maybe you should have let the moms and dads decide which fighter jets to buy. LOL! Please don't take our money away."
We had no snacks to leave out for Santa Pierre. Who is prepared to host such a generous benefactor in the middle of summer? The scotch we normally leave for Santa was all gone. Fortunately, the fridge yielded some icy-cold Camembert and broken crackers, so we knew he'd feel welcome.
The computer pinged. Santa's journey had begun, and it was all available on the government's YouTube channel! "Look, children. He's at his workshop in the North Pole. … Wait, make that the Government Works and Public Services printing outlet in Winnipeg. He's watching the cheques come off the printing press! Okay, it's not as much fun as watching Lego being made. But governments aren't built out of Lego, children. They're built out of cheques sent to hard-working, tax-paying parents."
Santa was giving an interview: "Ten thousand child-care payments will be produced off this single roll," he said, and I was glad the kids were there to hear it. It is never too early to learn a lesson in civics.
Next, we watched as Santa Pierre journeyed across the country looking for boys and girls who were not yet on his list. He and his junior minister elves combed the land, or at least the places where there were lots of Tory voters, looking for hard-working, tax-paying parents who had failed to sign up for the benefit.
Finally, as we gathered around the glow of Santa's festive Twitter feed, we saw him promise "one more sleep" until the cheques were in the mail. Television ads beamed with happy families waiting for the joyful sound of their mailboxes clanging open. "Mailboxes," I said to my children. "Soon to be featured in a history museum near you."
And then it was Christmas in July, and the ministers of the government journeyed across the land to spread cheer, and even as the loonie fell, spirits soared. If palms were greasy, it was only because it's summer. Santa Pierre suggested the money might be spent on back-to-school supplies, which seemed odd, considering that vacation is only half over. "It might look like Santa is offering bribes," I said to my kids, "but really he's investing in the future."
Oh, it wouldn't be Christmas if the Grinches didn't show up. This money is a taxable benefit, said some, that will have to be mostly returned next year. This money wouldn't begin to cover the cost of actual daycare, said others. Where is our affordable daycare? (I could tell those people that a monthly $160 per child under six will buy a lot of playpens, door locks and ear plugs. What more could they possibly want?)
The clever people at The Canadian Press crunched the numbers and determined that, out of 20 ridings receiving the largest amounts of child-care benefit, 17 were in Tory strongholds. I personally think Santa just decided which ridings were naughty, and which were nice, and there you have it. Some people clearly don't want to believe in the magic of the season.
But other people do, many people, if we're to believe a new poll taken the week that Santa arrived. The federal government has seen a significant boost in its popularity. Who doesn't love Christmas in July?! See you back here in four years for another Christmas miracle – it's a fixed date.