Is it time for Ottawa to switch to Christmas e-cards?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his wife Laureen Harper, son Ben and daughter Rachel are seen on the annual Christmas card taken outside the official residence of the prime minister, 24 Sussex Dr. in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
Published Monday, December 24, 2012 7:00AM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 24, 2012 7:30AM EST
The Christmas card tradition is dying. That is mostly unfortunate.
The days of receiving idyllic cards with hand-written notes updating you on distant friends and family has succumbed to a drone of constant cyberspace communication.
But what if cards kept coming from someone you hardly knew, contained no personal salutation and featured a stamped signature? And, worst of all, you paid for it?
Such is the story of Christmas cards from MPs, Senators and even some support staff.
So far our Ottawa bureau has received cards from around 75 MPs. Some are from politicians regularly featured on my show or CTV newscasts containing appreciated personal comments. A few are fun photos of MPs with their families. Most, though, are formula cards with mechanical signatures on the bottom.
Truth be told, most MPs who try to add some personality to the process actually loath this annual rite of Christmas. Staff place huge card piles on their Commons desk starting in late November, a daily quota of boredom which forces them to engage the mindless drudgery of adding their scrawl for hours, pausing sporadically to insert a comment when they spot a familiar name on the mailing list.
One MP aide confided her boss got a hand cramp signing 2,000 cards and admitted she has processed 10,000 more. My MP appears to have sent a card to every household in our subdivision and, for all I can tell, the riding. Stephen Harper's office says the Prime Minister mailed out 77,150 cards this year.
With 308 MPs, 105 Senators plus staff, the math suggests hundreds of thousands of cards have been mailed from Parliament Hill to select voters in an era of tightening austerity.
At the risk of sounding Scrooge-like, might I suggest an easy way to save a lot of time and money and yet maintain a Christmas connection to the public?
Parliament Hill could and should create a standard electronic card with space for the sender to insert their own photo with a personal greeting option. Then, with the push of a button, the card is instantly dispatched en masse to the mailing list, be they naughty or nice.
As for the practice of politicians mailing out hundreds of thousands of hard-copy cards from the public purse, well, there's a seasonal last word for that tradition. Humbug.