Editor's Note: This "Exclusive Interview with Santa Claus" was published in The Temiskaming Speaker in December 1981. I wrote it when the Prime Minister was Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Alan MacEachen was Finance Minister and Eugene Whelan was the Minister of Agriculture. Bill Davis was Ontario's Premier and Rene Levesque was Premier of Quebec. Canada's new constitution was adopted in 1982. Strikes were happening, including a postal strike. Small schools in the area were being closed due to declining enrolment. The high cost of oil was a popular topic of conversation everywhere. Word processors were the first in the long line of technological advances to supplant the electric typewriter. ParticipACTION was a government initiative to promote health and fitness. There was something topical about grain quality, livestock and tender innards, but the details escape me. Hope you enjoy.
THE SPEAKER: Before we begin, Mr. Claus, allow me to say that we are very grateful to you for granting us this interview, particularly in view of your busy schedule.
SANTA CLAUS: It’s a pleasure, although things have been hectic lately. I do feel, however, that it’s high time people developed a better understanding of what Santa Claus is all about.
SPEAKER: Publicity never hurts, Sir. Well now, you’ve been in the toy profession for quite some time. One could say that you are the world’s foremost expert in the field. How do you feel about your career after all those years?
SANTA: Well, it certainly has its rewards. Times are tough, though, and the Santa Toy Factory has been as hard hit by inflation as any other business. We’re barely making ends meet.
SPEAKER: Really? What’s the trouble, Sir?
SANTA: My heating bills are outrageous, for one thing. When the price of oil first started to climb, I switched over to wood heating. I bought myself a nice little wood furnace. It smells real nice, but I don’t think it’s cutting costs all that much. It’s awfully cold in the North Pole, you know, and we have to import our wood from the treeline. The shipping costs are preposterous.
SPEAKER: I didn’t realize that the Santa Toy Factory was in financial trouble. Do other factors contribute to the situation?
SANTA: Yes indeed. I employ a huge staff, and they are always up in arms over something or other. Why, a few months ago, 50 elves walked off the job because their union, the Canadian Union of Elves (CUE) was seeking wage parity with IUD, the International Union of Dwarves. It left me high and dry for weeks.
SPEAKER: Oh no. Did they settle the dispute to the elves’ satisfaction?
SANTA: Well, yes and no. They wanted 17 weeks paid maternity leave, but you know elves – I’d go broke in a year. It finally went to arbitration, and the mediator ruled that the elves could have parity with IUD if they dropped their request for maternity leave. I threw in a special premium for shift work, because the CUE members work their little hearts out at this time of year.
SPEAKER: I bet they do! Certainly, despite your rising overhead and labour problems, there is no possibility of a decline in your market?
SANTA: Well, I’m not too sure about that, now. Business is lagging. It seems the Santa Toy Factory is facing the same trouble your schools are facing – the baby boom is over. Too many people watch television. I have an entire Research and Development complex devoted to discovering a successful aphrodisiac.
SPEAKER: Are they making progress?
SANTA: Not on the aphrodisiac, no, although they have come up with several products which may be of interest to the average consumer. This year, they came up with a nutritious tobacco and the formula for eternal youth.
SPEAKER: Why, Sir, you could make a fortune!
SANTA: Yes, I’ve thought of that. But I do have a monopoly in the toy field, you know, and a certain obligation to the world’s children. Mrs. Claus and I nip into the youth serum from time to time. We can’t wait for them to develop the aphrodisiac – HO HO HO. Anyway, we plan to put it all on the market and retire to Rio de Janeiro eventually.
SPEAKER: So that’s what keeps you looking so young and fresh!
SANTA: That’s part of my secret. We also eat very well, you know, and we both joined ParticipACTION this year. Our tummies were beginning to shake like bowls full of jelly. Each Christmas, I return home with my sleigh overflowing with milk and cookies. This year, for the sake of my finances and my waistline, I’m going to sell the surplus on the world market.
SPEAKER: I see. Tell me, have things changed a great deal in the world since you started your operation?
SANTA: Heavens, yes. It’s getting very difficult to find reliable reindeer. They’ve been spoiled, you see, and they demand the finest feed grain – something about keeping their innards tender. I’m also very nervous in the sky these days. I understand my sleigh crosses the proposed paths of nuclear warheads in several places. But some things have changed for the better. I now answer all my letters by word processor, and I have a computer tracking system to monitor good and bad children. Last year, I picked up a microfilm filing system to record the annual list of presents. It avoids duplication.
SPEAKER: Modern technology, eh? Well, I think that gives me enough background information on you, Sir. Before we get down to the nitty gritty, I’d like to add that your suit is most becoming.
SANTA: You know, I’ve worn this old suit ever since I went into business. You media people have stifled my individuality. My pictures appear all over the place throughout the festive season and none of the pictures look even remotely like I do! There are imposters everywhere, hanging around in the plazas to frighten babies. If I didn’t have to compete with so many reasonable facsimiles, I’d modernize my image and get rid of these old threads.
SPEAKER: But the bright red suit is your trademark!
SANTA: Exactly. My preference turned to green several years ago, and I’d love to pick up a hat like Mr. Whelan’s to match it. I’m afraid I’d get arrested at my first chimney.
SPEAKER: Oh. What I’d like to talk about now, Mr. Claus, is the political situation here in Canada. You see everything from where you sit at the top of the world. Who’s been good, and who’s been bad, on the Canadian political scene this year?
SANTA: I’d rather not comment on that.
SPEAKER: Later, off the record?
SPEAKER: Ho ho ho. Well then, could we talk about the gifts that our esteemed political figures will be finding under their Christmas trees this year?
SANTA: I think that would be alright. I have for Mr. [Pierre Elliott] Trudeau a plaque, engraved “Father of the Canadian Constitution”. Mr. MacEachen will find an envelope containing a pink slip. For Mr. Levesque, I have a jigsaw puzzle of Canada, but the province of Quebec doesn’t come off. And Mr. Davis won’t be getting anything this year, because he’s been giving himself presents all year long.
SPEAKER: Very imaginative, Sir. Before we conclude, is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
SANTA: Yes. Although I complain, as we all do, I love my profession and I am very proud of the work I do. I make many children happy. And I would like to wish all your readers the happiest Christmas they have ever had. I wish them all the true spirit of Christmas.
SPEAKER: So do I. Thank you, Sir, for your time.