Volume 22, Number 130,

Mike Harris’s Christmas Carol
by Kevin McCabe

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through Toronto
M.P.P.s and their families were getting out pronto.
Some were bound for Hawaii, and others for Florida
(Where the oranges are bigger, the strippers are torrider).
While some flew to Europe to ski Switzerland,
But Mike Harris had cancelled the travels he’d planned,
Namely, golfing in Georgia and neighbouring states,
To work on decreasing the income tax rates.
(When elections are coming, then no one relaxes,
And support will be strongest for he who cuts taxes).

So alone in the office, apart from Bob Starvage,
Who, as part of his workfare, was carrying out garbage,
Mike plotted his strategy, but just couldn’t click;
Not a single idea was sprouting up quick.
So he told Bob to go, as the hour was past eight,
But he warned Bob he wanted a reduced welfare rate.
Yet Bob hesitated, and started to speak,
By desperation driven on, though naturally meek.
“Please, Sir,” he addressed Mike, “Our last monthly cheque
Is already exhausted; we haven’t a speck
Of food in the house, and no money for gruel,
Or the kids’ Christmas presents... could you please bend the rule
Of deducting all gifts out of next month’s allowance,
Then someone might help us with cash, or might plough cents
Into our piggy-bank, to help with the holiday,
But no one will do much, if you take it away.”

“I’m surprised,” Mike exclaimed, “Robert Starvage at you,
After all we have done, after all we will do.
Opportunities in abundance keep coming your way,
And with all of these benefits, is that all you can say?
And, as for food problems, why, David Tsubouchi
Knows a family who lived upon nothing but sushi.
Those reports of child hunger? Well, that soon disappears
When women will breast-feed for five or six years.
And, with less on the table, the obese will get thinner,
If they dine, as I did, for some months on Kraft dinner.
So, go home to your family with my very best wishes;
If you hurry, you can help Tiny Slim with the dishes.”

When Bob had gone, Mike pulled his papers together
And prepared to walk out in the wild wintry weather.
His limousine driver had quit for the night,
So Mike trudged through the snow and the harsh glaring light;
He hoped, at this hour, not to see squeegee kids,
Nor pan-handlers, winos, nor bums on the skids;
For, in spite of his usual benevolent air,
Such losers were pains in the premier’s derriere.
He was just about home, when a staggering figure
Through the snow and the storm loomed up bigger and bigger.

With a sawed-off golf club, Mike prepared to do battle,
When the stranger spoke hoarsely - it was almost a rattle:
“Mike, Mike, don’t you know me? It’s your old pal, Newt Gingrich;
I helped make you and every other neo-con kingrich.
But now things are worse for me. Once out of power
All my friends have deserted, while my enemies glower.
I do the talk circuit, and eat rubber chicken,
Bed down with cheap hookers, in rooms that would sicken.
It was sure a mistake that I didn’t win over
Some who might have befriended me, so now I’m a rover.
But you still have power, and chances a-plenty
To help out the poor. Could you lend me a twenty?”

“Get out of my sight!” Mike yelled, red in the face,
“You! You, of all people! What a rotten disgrace!
You’re soaked with the bottle, besotted by women!
Your brains have been scrambled! You’ve lost all your winning!
To beg or to borrow was never our creed.
Unlike liberals, we neo-cons take all we need!”

“But Mike, let me warn you, while time still remains:
Get people to like you, try to pity their pains;
And, if that seems too much, at least look like you do.
I scorned this advice, but now it’s come true.
There are image consultants - I’ve still got some friends -
Who can turn things around for you, before your term ends.”

“Consultants! Forget it!” sputtered Mike in disgust,
“Those tax-guzzling parasites should be left out to rust!
Who needs them? Right now we’re way up in the polls;
We’ve won two elections; we’re achieving our goals.”
“That’s fine,” countered Newt, “you’ll hear no more from me,
But I warn you - tonight you will see what will be.”

Mike turned away quickly, and made for his door,
And battled the storm for another block more.
It took several tries for the key to fit in
And the door now seemed different and foreign to him.
As he looked down, Newt’s face seemed to grin on the handle,
Although fitful and flickering, like light from a candle.
He slammed the door shut, and bolted it tight,
Then headed upstairs, and to bed for the night.
And he slept; or at least that was what it had seemed,
For events of that night were like dreams he had dreamed.
But he woke wet and shivering; when he reached for the poker,
He was blasted again by a huge super-soaker.

“Hey, lay off,” spluttered Mike. “What is all of this for?”
“Why, I’m treating you now the way you treat the poor!
‘’Soak the rich’ was the tried-and-true socialist refrain:
Neo-cons ‘soak the poor’ both for votes and for gain.”
Though the voice seemed familiar (partly squeak, partly shout),
With his eyes filled with water, Mike can’t make him out.
(In Dickens’ tale ‘twould be voice-of-the-past man,
But, in our modern version, it looked like Mel Lastman.)

“Fear not,” Mel announced. “I’m here with advice:
Though your party and you have topped the polls twice,
Yet you’ve really pissed off a large chunk of the votes,
So I want you to listen to my quotable quotes.
Just keep quiet for a minute, and try to relax,
And think about something besides income tax.”
“The hell that I need you,” blurted Mike. “You poor joker!”
But was stopped by a blast from Mayor Mel’s super-soaker.

“Now listen up, Mike,” Mel went on, “Politicians
Have to show their support for opposing positions.
A premier must represent every constituency,
Though I grant that there’s some that he can’t do with decency!
Compromises? A popular leader makes dozens:
Prostitution and politics are certainly cousins.
For adulterers, pimps, pedophiles, masturbators...
They all have the vote, and they all are good haters;
So you just can’t ignore them, they’re part of creation,
And they’re part - a large part - of the Canadian nation!”

“Let liberals and socialist wimps try to please all,
Our conservative train is now running on diesel.
So why try to please every last malcontent?
We’ve won all our elections with forty percent.”
“Look, Mike, I’m not saying ‘change it all’, but your image
Is that of a rugby player locked in a scrimmage:
You’re fighting the teachers, the homeless, the feds,
With unions, with Natives, with gays, and with reds.
You don’t have to change... but make it look like you’ll try:
We can work on your image, as a really nice guy.

What harm will it do you to toss off a buck
To a grizzled pan-handler who’s down on his luck?
You don’t have to like him; you don’t have to stop;
Just pause there a second, for a quick photo-op.
We’ll work in minorities. It isn’t that tough -
Just act sentimental. The press love that stuff!
At weddings you’ll dance, and in kiddie-pools wade,
And we’ll dress you in leather, for the Gay Pride Parade.”

“Get back to me later,” said Mike. “Now, get out!
How can anyone sleep with you wandering about?
“Yes, I’m going,” said Mel, and gave Mike one last blast,
“But more company’s coming before this night’s passed.”
Mike dove back in bed, feeling clammy and wet,
Either from Mayor Mel’s soaker, or from his own sweat.
Yet he slept for a while, least he thought that he had,
But was woke with a jolt by a sound loud and bad,
For someone was playing piano next door
And the music and singing were almost a roar.

Mike jumped out of bed; he had plenty to say;
But the guy who walked into the room was Bob Rae.
“What a nightmare!” Mike shouted. “I sure hope it stops!
Now get out of my place or I’m calling the cops!”
“Take it easy,” said Bob, trying hard not to gloat,
“Like my song lyric says, ‘We’re in the same boat.’
It seems strange, and you’ll find it a hard thought to seize,
But I’ve been where you are, and have deep sympathies.
I know what it’s like as provincial premier -
Being slapped in the face, and being kicked in the rear.
You don’t have a friend, long as you’re at the top;
My advice to you, Mike, is to know when to stop.
But if you’re determined to manage the reins,
I’ll point to a few things to lessen your pains.”

“No more speeches!” Mike yelled. (He was cold, wet, and dazed.)
“I need a hot drink with some alcohol laced.”
“ Come with me,” Bob encouraged, as he turned to the door,
“I won’t waste your time; we’ll go straight to the core.”
Soon Mike found himself just outside the Scott Mission,
Along with some winos, in sorry condition.
“What’s all this?” Mike exclaimed, “I see bums every day.”
Then he looked at the waiting line blocking his way,
For there stood Bob Starvage, in hopes of some dinner,
Tiny Slim was beside him, looking thinner and thinner.
“What will happen to him?” Mike kept asking Bob Rae.
“Well, he needs special treatment, but OHIP won’t pay,”
Said Bob, “And without getting excellent care,
In a couple of years, Tiny Slim won’t be there.”

“That’s a shame,” Mike responded, “But, still, though it’s sad,
He would likely end up on relief like his dad.
It’s just nature’s way of restoring the nation
By weeding out all the excess population!
Just the same I’ll feel angry, and want to bang heads,
So if Tiny Slim croaks, I’m blaming the feds!”
“Why the feds?” Bob replied. “You can do something helpful -
Not just stand by the sidelines to deliver your yelpful.
You can save Medicare. You can make OHIP better.
You can make Tiny Slim and the province your debtor!
And what better time than this season of joy
To save innocent lives that your cuts would destroy!”

“Why the sermon?” snapped Mike. “How did you help the poor?
And there’s one little thing that I’d like to explore:
About most Christian stuff you get angry or listless,
How come you Jewish guys are so big then on Christmas?”
“Well, I may not accept every custom or scripture,
But the basic idea makes our culture much richer.
Baby Jesus was homeless, his bed was a manger,
So the story should teach us to love every stranger.
When they think of Madonna and the little Infante,
Politicians should be less like Scrooge, more like Santa!”

“Well, I take all that stuff with a large grain of salt:
God was testing you Jews for your sins and your faults;
But as for us Anglicans, things are much better,
We’re free from that law, and we’re nobody’s debtor.”
Bob Rae, in frustration, led Mike home again,
And soon only the sounds of Mike’s snoring remain.
Yet he was awakened a third time from slumber,
Though by now he’d forgotten to keep count of the number
Of consultants Newt sent; but now, sleepy and bleary,
A piercing voice yelled in his ear, “Do ya hear me?”
The mellifluous tones rang so loud in Mike’s head
That he jumped up at once, and was shaking with dread.

It was Hamilton’s sweetheart, the Honorable Ms. Copps,
Whose election machine, and her tongue, never stops.
She was lecturing Mike on his treatment of poor folks,
Better care for the elderly, and how to help more folks...
When Mike interrrupted, or at least tried to do so,
For to out-sing our Sheila, would take Enrico Caruso.
After yelling ten minutes, Mike finally got through
By screaming his loudest, “Who the hell asked for you?”
“Why, you!” Sheila said, “how your memory flipflops!
For when Bob Rae arrived here, you called for the cops.
Nowadays there are thousands of both he and she cops
But I guess I alone can be thought of as THE Copps.
So I’m here, like the others, to give good advice,
Though I doubt that you’ll take it, since you’ve turned it down twice.”

“No wonder!” yelled Mike, “See the crackpots and losers
That were sent me.” “But beggars,” said she, “can’t be choosers.
A lot of our best just weren’t willing to help you;
They want you defeated, and some want to scalp you.
But don’t worry,” Sheila added, “I’ll soon go the distance.
My job is to show you your future existence.
One picture will tell more than all I can say:
Here’s a scene of the day after next ‘lection day.”

Then a mist started up right in front of Mike’s face;
It was hazy, and dim-lit, like a crystal ball gaze.
Sketchy figures emerged; they were reading newspapers,
And all talking at once, just like kids doing capers.
They were milling around, in a slow-motion dance,
And circling a newstand, while repeating their chants:
Saying “washed up” and “has been” and “only a handful”,
And “wiped out” and “done for” and “worse than Kim Campbell”.
Mike pricked up his ears, as he edged his way closer,
But did the news make him feel better? Well, no, sir!
His face turned ash white, and then red, and then blue,
Then he hollered, “It’s a dirty Grit trick! It’s not true!”

Then said Mike, calming down, “There’s one thing I must know,
Are these things sure to happen, and must they be so?”
“No,” said Sheila, “but changes must happen real soon,
Or else you’ll go down like a leaden balloon.”
For a minute Mike stood there, looking anxious and grim,
But at last an idea resurfaced for him:
“We’ll cut welfare rolls more; social programs will go;
And we’ll make massive tax-cuts so that business will grow!
Then the voters will know that we mean what we say,
And that sticking with us will bring moola their way.”
Such a text might inspire any preacher or preachess,
But for once in her life Sheila Copps was left speechless.

So Mike was soon back in his bed sawing logs,
With dreams of hot toddys, of rum and egg nogs,
When the whole room was shaken, the old chimney rumbled,
For someone straight down through the flue had just tumbled.
The intruder was burly, and covered in soot
From his face and his beard to the sole of his foot.
Mike took one quick look, and found himself shaking;
He just hoped that this burglar here wasn’t Jamaican.
“I’m finished,” thought Mike, “if this guy has a gun.”
But he grabbed for the phone and he dialed nine-one-one.
The stranger just stood there, seeming quite out of breath,
For descending the chimney seemed too much for his girth.

A policeman came pronto; Mike admired his dispatch.
The officer was eager for making a catch.
But when Mike told his story, the cop coughed in his sleeve,
“We can’t arrest Santa for tonight’s Christmas Eve!”
And Mike, taken aback, eyed the stranger with care.
Yes, his red and black outfit had a Christmasy air.
“There’s one way to prove it,” said Mike, thinking quick,
“That’s a bagful of toys, if you’re really Saint Nick.
But if you’re a thief, or some other galoot,
Then I’ll bet that your bag is piled sky-high with loot.
We’ll just open the stash up, and look round inside,
Then we’ll know if you’ve told us the truth or you’ve lied.”

So they looked in the bag, which was just a black hole,
There was nothing inside but a large lump of coal.
“Aha!” exclaimed Mike, “Now we’ve caught you red-handed.
You thieves, just like birds, should be netted and banded.
You were planning, no doubt, to fill up your stash
With all of my valuables, golf-clubs, and cash.”
The policeman then led the intruder away,
And, feeling much better, Mike soon hit the hay.
Now Mike’s back at Queen’s Park for all he can rake in,
While Santa is doing hard labour for break-in.