Deck the halls a little early


On the way to Remembrance Day, red poppy pins securely attached to left lapels, came the bombardment of the merchandising miracle that used to be Christmas. Some of you may know that for quite some time – up until the end of the 19th and somewhere into the 20th Century – Christmas was a Christian celebration in recognition of the birth of Jesus Christ – a hope for salvation for the wretched world in which we live.

But somewhere around the 1930s, that friendly looking chubby character sporting a white beard and dressed in a full red suit with white trim depicted by artist Haddon Sundblom under the aegis of a well-known soft drink corporation began shifting our focus.

From that point on we have taken the gift-giving and partying portion of the annual celebration to ever-greater heights. Whole careers have sprung up around helping overspending ‘consumers’ manage their Christmas shopping debt load. But who can resist, for the visual temptations are so great.

Haven’t we all by now been exposed to the department store flyers sending up their Christmas decorations as well as the various amusements for the kiddies? (So many of them are just so darn cute, too.)

Perhaps it was the cooler than normal July on into August that has some of us primed for Christmas already. Why not? After all, the weather had already taken us there. We had fall, (or was it spring?) in July, so the Christmas feeling was bound to arrive early. But not too early for recession weary retailers.

Furthermore, in the spirit of Christmas gift-giving, we are already getting all kinds of early gifts – some that money simply cannot buy. Last weekend and earlier this week, for instance, we got a bit of summer in our fall. Some might argue we were owed that, given the aforementioned conditions in July. Early Christmas gift number two: Toronto got the nod for the 2015 Pan-American Games.

More gifts? For those who care for such things, politician George Smitherman, the man formerly know as Ontario’s Deputy Premier, stepped down from that exalted position to begin his campaign for Mayor of Toronto. Take that, Giorgio Mammoliti! By the way, not an endorsement.

The fantasy candidate? If he has time, I’m hoping Barack Obama will run here. Apparently he’s a whiz at multi-tasking. Or, Joe Halstead? Michael Thompson? We could think of all of this as outgoing mayor David Miller’s early Christmas gift.

Another early Christmas gift – Governor General Michaëlle Jean gave taxpayers a few dollars back by moving with the times and going with the ‘fro. Offering consolation to the GG’s hairstylist, who may as a result be on early vacation, we say, nous regrettons. Now, how about you, Michelle Obama?

All that said, the truth is that some are looking forward to the cheerful, positive feelings that the Christmas season can bring with it, particularly because this has been a financially stormy year. As long as we aren’t too caught up in the commercialism aspect, it could be the tonic we need going forward.

On a note of exasperation…

Where does the Toronto Transit Commission get the nerve to talk about increasing the cost of fares by 15 per cent? In this current recession – and no, it’s not yet over – raising the price of the TTC monthly pass by $17 – to $129 – is merciless. And really, $3 for a cash fare?

Perhaps $17 is nothing to those well-paid members of the TTC, who seem frighteningly out of touch with the ridership. For, despite the public outcry, TTC spokesperson Brad Ross has said: “It does cost money to operate…and we feel our customers accept that.” Really?

If that’s the way it’s going to be, then it is certainly time to give a competing transit service a chance in this city because, despite getting more and more from riders in money and patience, not to mention time lost daily in all kinds of delays on routes, the TTC is asking too much of those who have to use public transit every day in keeping their livelihoods going.

In an age of climate change and global warming, why aren’t municipalities doing more to make public transit more usable, more affordable? Why are we being asked to pay almost 50 per cent more for a transit pass than Montreal commuters who pay $68.50 for their monthly passes?

By the way, despite all the praise the TTC likes to heap on itself, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has concluded that our local transit system is underdeveloped for a city of this size and population.

So, there!

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