There is a story by Zona Gale called Christmas, first published in 1912, which tells the tale of a town hit by hard times as the season of giving approaches.
The factory that employs most of the town is closed and not likely to re-open, and town merchants fear that people will try to shop for Christmas on credit.
They do not want to carry the debt and the merchants get everybody in town to agree not to have Christmas that year.
As it turns out, Christmas happens anyway; it exists because it lives in the hearts of those who truly believe in it.
With or without presents, “every window was lighted, a fire was kindled in the parlour, and neighbours came from the dark.”
A similarly cynical mood hangs over Canadian politics these days, chipping away at our belief in everything that is great about being a Canadian and living in this amazing country.
Yet it is possible, even necessary, at such times to step back and remember what is important.
We are fortunate to call Canada home.
We have a resilient economy, fair wages and taxes, jobs, safe streets and communities, access to health care, social programs and education.
We live in a country that functions on strong democratic principles.
We function very well as a multicultural society.
We uphold the rights and freedoms of conscience and religion; of thought, belief, opinion and expression; of the press and other media of communication; of peaceful assembly and association.
We are and have loyal allies and can protect ourselves and help to protect others.
We can and do give generously.
During the 2010 Olympic Games, in an effort to explain Canada to Americans, journalist Tom Brokaw put together a short tribute to one of the most abiding relationships between two countries.
You might want to take a minute and check it out ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV_041oYDjg).
Sometimes it takes an outsider’s view of us to renew our sense of pride in what it means to be Canadian.
And so the message is this: Do not let the merchants of fear, uncertainty and doubt peddle the idea that this country, its democratic principles, its future—is in trouble. It is far from it.
We have much to be thankful for and much to believe in.
In this season of peace, my wish for all is that we regain our sense of connectedness, learn again the importance of respecting each other and our different experiences, and strive to be a positive influence in the lives of each other.
It continues to be an honour to represent you in Ottawa and I look forward to working with you on your behalf in 2013.
I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah, and the best of the giving season.