Ranking the leaders' 2019 Queen's Park Christmas trees

Ranking the leaders’ 2019 Queen’s Park Christmas trees

By David Hains and Jack Hauen

David Hains (acting QP Briefing editor): The first thing that you notice about the premier's Christmas tree is that it is tall. It is very tall. This is not your average living room Fraser Fir, which makes some sense, as the ceilings are high, and if you don't get an extra large tree it looks like one of those miniature desk trees you can pick up at Canadian Tire.

The premier's tree is also very extensively decorated, with lots of baubles and some animal ornaments too. At first glance it looks a bit more scaled-back, like the tree is trying to strike the subdued post-June tone of this government. But then you realize that on the inside there's a giant beach ball-sized bauble, which raises many questions to me. Where do you buy such an ornament? Did the government have to put this on the inside because the outer branches couldn't support it? Did former chief of staff Dean French, who was not known for his subtlety, sneak down to Queen's Park to decorate the tree with this ornament? There is so much to know.

Jack Hauen (QPB reporter): When you look for a Christmas tree, there are certain adjectives you usually want to avoid.




This tree hits those and more. It’s simply gargantuan — so large that the oversized ornaments almost look normal.

I love it. Premier Doug Ford might be trying to soften his image these days as he attempts to adopt the role of national unifier, but this tree is classic Ford — bombastic, larger-than-life and in your face. It embraces the Clark Griswold ethos of “bigger is better” in the best way.

It’s a bit different than the opposition’s tree.

DH: Since the late-'60s and early-'70s, it has been a maxim of the political left that the personal is political. Following that principle to its logical arboreal conclusion, surely that must be true of Christmas trees as well.

Regardless, credit to the official opposition for getting into the seasonal spirit; a 2018 candidate was criticized for not wearing a poppy on the grounds that they were a glorification of war, and added that she'd sign up for a War on Christmas. There's no War on Christmas on Queen's Park's third floor, but granted, that's a low bar.

JH: The NDP’s tree appears quaint upon first glance, with personalized ornaments displaying each MPP’s beaming face on them.

But look a little closer, and questions start to emerge.

Leader Andrea Horwath is at the top, which might seem obvious — but her placement suggests a hierarchy on this tree. If the most important member is at the top, what does that say about Bhutila Karpoche or Faisal Hassan, who reside on the bottom branches?

Are they in the doghouse? Who decided to put them there? If someone were to move their ornament above Horwath’s, would they automatically take over the party?

I’m not saying there’s a conspiracy at work here, but readers are free to draw their own conclusions.

Of course, there is another way to avoid criticism of your Christmas tree altogether.

DH: It was with great disappointment that I learned Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser's office does not have a Christmas tree. As he explained it, they don't have a caucus budget and they really do have to watch the pennies. Yet somehow it seems fitting that in 2019 the Ontario Liberals are the Charlie Brown party at Queen's Park. Like the famous Peanuts character in his titular Christmas special, Fraser is a pretty lonely guy in the legislature, and there are open questions about whether the party, like Charlie Brown's tree, is dead.

Jack, what does the absence of a tree say about the Liberals in 2019? Is this a party that's primed for a Christmas miracle with a turnaround in fortune, or has Christmas been cancelled permanently for them?

JH: As a Liberal, there are many ways you can spin the fact that you don’t have a Christmas tree. You’re being inclusive; you’re being environmentally friendly; your hybrid will literally bottom out if you try to haul more than two Whole Foods bags, let alone a tree.

But Fraser seemed like he just forgot. This feels fitting for an interim party leader in the twilight of his time at the helm, and honestly, I respect it. I half-expected him to put his feet up on his desk, light a cigar and go, “Who cares?” The party will soon be someone else’s problem — he’s vibing and it rules.

Now, if the leader of a party that's all about trees doesn't bring his A-game to the battle, that’s another story.

DH: Which brings us to Green Leader Mike Schreiner, the media-friendly Guelph MPP who always puts forth his best effort. But when it comes to Christmas trees, he did not. Because like Fraser he did not put one up. On the one hand this is a letdown based on the standards Schreiner usually sets for himself, but Christmas trees aren't the most environmentally friendly, so I'd give him a pass on this one.

JH: C’mon Mike, what’s greener than a tree? I mean, besides cutting down a tree, I guess.


DH: Beyond the party leaders’, there are other Christmas trees at Queen's Park. You stumble across some in random hallways — the one in the east side's fourth floor passage smells particularly good.

But we couldn't do this without mentioning Speaker Ted Arnott's tree. Located by the east entrance of the first floor, it leans into a multicultural theme with ornaments from several countries, including Albania, Switzerland and Sweden.

There's also a charming speaker's hat in lieu of a more traditional star or angel. My only qualm, and it's what prevents me from giving a full thumbs up, is that the ornaments tend to be oversized and crowd out the tree. And if Speaker Arnott can't maintain order on his tree then who can?

JH: Listen, the top of this tree has really got it going on. Anytime you put what is essentially a pirate’s hat on top of a tree, you know you’re on the right track.

That said, I will dock marks for the pair of creepy dolls at the bottom. This is where the gifts should be, and possessed dolls are not good gifts. As I have documented previously, Queen’s Park is already completely haunted. The addition of gently swaying, glowing dolls is just asking for a bad time. I expect to find that little glass box they reside in shattered and empty very soon.

Fortunately, most other trees in Queen’s Park are not haunted (knock on wood). A few fine examples can be found on the main staircase in the south lobby.

DH: There's a reason that it's called the grand staircase, and these Christmas trees live up to the name.

The stairs were always meant to be a showcase for the building, with Eric Arthur enthusing in his definitive 1979 architectural history of Ontario's legislative buildings, “From Front Street to Queen's Park”: "Eyes will be riveted on the stair which in its carpet seems to reflect a glow that must give a lift to the spirit on gloomy days whether the gloom is related to the weather outside, politics, or business within." And you know what? These Christmas trees pull it off. Standing before the first stair in the centre of the 26-foot wide staircase you can lose yourself in the seasonal perspective, with all stairs leading up to the big tree before you get to the hallway that leads to the legislative library. It doesn't hurt that the staircase is filled with children's choirs singing Christmas carols this time of year, giving a clear winner for this contest.

JH: They’re good trees. They’re well-placed. The whole esthetic with the choir of singing kids is very pleasant (although troublesome during scrums).

I just can’t get over that massive garland on the main, centre tree. It’s so bad. And listen, I’m all for gaudy trees, but only when it seems like they’re trying to be gaudy. The middle tree in this set seems like it’s going for a classy vibe as the first tree you see when you walk into Queen’s Park, and a big dollar-store garland just doesn’t work.

That’s why my winning tree is the premier’s. Clearly he (or whoever created the monstrosity) knows his style, and isn't afraid to lean into it. It’s not haunted like the Speaker’s, or full of mystery like the NDP’s. It’s just big and bad and gaudy as hell, and I love it.

DH: Happy holidays to you, Jack Hauen. I'm glad we sorted this coniferous conundrum out.

JH: What a treet this has been.

QP Briefing Staff

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