The fir flies at B.C. legislature

The Grinches at the B.C. legislature in Victoria altered a Christmas tradition unexpectedly, removing Michael Fleming's tree from its rightful place.

Fleming lives in Brentwood Bay and grows trees on Crown land he leases at the south end of Shawnigan Lake as well as operating Christmas tree farms in Brentwood Bay and Saanichton.

Fleming, 61, has been a providing a tree for the legislature rotunda since he was 16. "I started back when Bill Bennett was premier,'' he said.

During those times of restraint, Fleming bucked the trend. "I showed up with this 15-foot tree. I didn't have a big one then,'' he said. "I started a tradition then.''

Every year since, Fleming arranged the set-up of a tree three to four weeks in advance of Christmas.

"I'm not doing this for myself,'' he stressed. "I'm doing it to promote B.C. Christmas trees.

"My donation is to give to the people of the province. It's a beautiful place to display a tree.''

But when Fleming went to the legislature on Nov. 29, it wasn't business as usual.

"I have not seen so much security around the Christmas tree,'' he said. "They had to let me in. I had an appointment with the minister's office.''

When Fleming got there, he discovered a tree had already been selected from Bartlett Tree Experts and set up. "I was aghast,'' he said.

Fleming had brought his 27-foot Grand Fir, but was told his tree would be set up "out back.''

"I'm just scratching my head,'' he said.

Fleming said he was told by government clerk Craig James it was not intended as a slight and his tree would still be displayed in a prime place.

Fleming didn't agree, but couldn't change the decision. "It's almost as if the government sets themselves up to do stupid things,'' he said.

Fleming vows this isn't the end of his long affiliation with the legislature.

"I'll do it again next year,'' he said.


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