The Christmas Season
As I write this column, the House of Commons prepares to adjourn for the Christmas holidays. Parliament Hill is beautifully lit up with Christmas lights and is a visual reminder of the joy that comes at this time of year and it helps to ease the sad memory of what took place here in October.
When we hear the word holidays, we might imagine sitting in front of a warm fire with our feet up, perhaps playing a board game with the kids or packing up the car to visit friends and family. But for many, the Christmas holidays will be the busiest time of the year; last minute Christmas shopping, rushing the kids to the rink and for some hard-working Canadians, even working on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. For MPs, this break will not be a ‘time-out’ from the job, but will only be a welcome break from Ottawa as we look ahead to weeks of meetings, tours and events in our ridings. It is an important time to get out in the riding to listen to people and meet with constituents.
If you still have a list of people to buy gifts for, I encourage you to shop local. Supporting local establishments keeps money circulating in the local economy and provides jobs for our residents. Consider taking your visiting relatives for meals at a locally owned and operated restaurant or buy a gift certificate to a local spa or B&B to encourage your friends to try something new. Durham is fortunate to have communities with hidden shops and artisan studios off the beaten path. Uxbridge, Port Perry, Bowmanville, Newcastle and Orono all have wonderful shops in their downtown core that are filled with unique treasures and handcrafted wares that can only be found locally. Visitors from outside of the area come not only for the shopping, but to experience the atmosphere and hospitality that our small-town boutiques offer.
One thing that frustrates and upsets most Canadians when shopping is the unexplained and often significant price gap between Canadian and U.S. prices for the same products. Some all-too-familiar examples are spending 30% more for a 1.5L bottle of shampoo; 13% more for a brand new 46-inch LED TV; and 100% more – double the price – for an 81 mg bottle of aspirin. Some components of those prices are justified – the exchange rate, price of fuel, and product safety standards are all factors that can explain the higher price. But sometimes the difference may be because of geographic price discrimination that happens when companies arbitrarily charge higher prices in Canada. Last week our government was pleased to announce new legislation, the Price Transparency Act that will help shine the light on this issue with the hope it causes some downward pressure on prices. We are strengthening the powers of the Commissioner of Competition who will now have the ability to investigate and expose unfair cross-border price discrimination. Especially at Christmastime, we know that every dollar counts and this new legislation will help ensure Canadians are paying a fair price for their goods.
The holiday season is also an important time to remember how blessed we are as Canadians. The challenges facing our country are real, but they pale in comparison with the economic challenges facing other countries and the suppression of freedom and violence that grips many parts of the world. We are blessed and must realize this at a time like Christmas and try to help some of the less fortunate in our own community. From my family to yours, I wish you a Merry Christmas, a safe holiday and a healthy and prosperous 2015.