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Festivus ‘Airing of Grievances’ was made for Canada

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On behalf of Canadian consumers, David Clement has a long list of complaints

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With pandemic restrictions completely behind us, this holiday season is the first since 2019 in which life is starting to feel normal again. Canadians from coast to coast are shopping again, hosting get-togethers with family and friends and carrying on their family’s holiday traditions.

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One tradition that is truly special is Festivus. Festivus was invented in the 1960s by the father of Dan O’Keefe, a writer for the hit 1990s comedy show Seinfeld, and became an O’Keefe family tradition. In a Seinfeld episode of December 1997, the show’s chief curmudgeon, Frank Costanza, father of George, introduced the holiday to the world.

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Celebrated every December 23rd, this strange fest usually involves an unadorned aluminum pole (to emphasize its origins in anti-commercialism), a Festivus family dinner, feats of strength and the ever-important “Airing of Grievances,” in which, after dinner, each member of the family explains how all the others have disappointed them over the past year.

We got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it

Frank Costanza

Well, speaking on behalf of Canadian consumers, directing my sentiments at our public officials and borrowing the immortal words of Frank Costanza: “We got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it.”

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Canadians traveling out of the country this Festivus may be shocked to learn that we still ration flights from many countries around the world. For some strange reason, and with the exception of 24 countries and the European Union, the number of flights allowed to arrive in Canada from an international destination is arbitrarily decided by the federal government. In a modern, globalized world, that’s unacceptable. Canadian airports and international airlines should be able to negotiate and allocate flights based on demand, rather than decree. If a market-based approach is good enough for 24 countries plus Europe, why isn’t it good enough for all countries? We should let the market — i.e., Canadians — determine where they want to travel to, how often and with what carrier.

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If you plan to enjoy an alcoholic beverage over the holidays or at any other time of the year, you’ve got grievances, too. Big ones. Most Canadians don’t realize that on April 1st each year — no joke! — the excise tax on all alcohol increases automatically, having been indexed by law to inflation. With no vote in parliament, this “escalator tax” is slated to rise 6.3 per cent in 2023. Add this programmed tax hike to the fact that taxes alone account for around half the price of beer, 65 per cent of the price of wine, and 75 per cent of the price of spirits and your drink of choice may leave a sour taste in your mouth.

To add insult to injury, if you consume more than two drinks per week, you may now be regarded as a “problematic drinker.” Yes, according to the federally funded Canadian Centre for Substance use and Addiction (CCSA), anything more than two beers in any seven-day period is cause for concern. This is the one-two punch of the growing nanny state: increase taxes mercilessly and then shame consumers for what almost every other jurisdiction in the world considers low-risk drinking.

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Finally, if any of your favourite holiday recipes include eggs, milk, chicken or turkey (and how many don’t?), understand that you pay hidden taxes on these items because “supply management,” our archaic system of production quotas and tariffs on imports that significantly limits supply, curbs competition and ensures high prices of supply-managed commodities. Peer-reviewed research shows that supply management adds upwards of $500 to the average family’s grocery bill every year, pushing between 133,000 and 189,000 Canadians below the poverty line. With overall inflation at 40-year highs, now would be the perfect time to get rid of it once and for all.

That’s it for grievances for this year — though only because space is limited: and could somebody out there puhlease do something about that! Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone. And a happy Festivus for the rest of us!

David Clement is North American affairs manager with the Consumer Choice Center.

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