UPDATE: New Westminster resident grateful city takes action on “Grinchian” action in Queensborough

A grinch may have tried to trim a Queensborough resident’s Christmas spirit, but the city showed heart and quickly righted a wrong.

On Monday afternoon, a tree-service crew contracted by the City of New Westminster arrived at Lance Murdoch’s South Dyke Road home to trim a tree – and did so only after removing Christmas lights he’d hung in the tree on the weekend. Murdoch’s wife was home at the time and questioned the crew about the removal of the lights, but they were determined to do the job they’d been hired to do.

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“This crew took a pretty significant amount of the tree off, and all my Christmas lights down,” Murdoch said. “I had a lot of lights on that tree. They took all of them off.”

While the tree is technically on city property, Murdoch said it’s located in his small front yard. He contacted the city to express his concerns about the “truly Grinchian move” that left the tree with far fewer branches and no lights.

“They did everything but show up in little green furry outfits, and take my Christmas lights away,” he told the Record Tuesday. “I felt like little Cindy Lou Who yesterday.”

Concerned by what had occurred, Murdoch contacted city hall and spoke with someone in the parks department.

“She ultimately agreed it was a mistake and they were going to talk to their contactors and let them know that that is not an acceptable way to treat homeowners, that they probably should have just left it and come back at a later time,” he said. “If they don’t do the work, they don’t get to bill – I get it. But it was really mean spirited.”

But in a scene reminiscent from How The Grinch Stole Christmas, when the Grinch returned to Whoville and returned all the items he’d taken from the Whos, a crew returned to Murdoch’s house on Tuesday afternoon.

“The city showed up today and completely restrung the tree,” he said. “As far as I am concerned, they did everything they could to make it right today, which is all I ever wanted. I am just trying to make the neighbourhood look nice.”

City crews were set to return to the Murdoch’s home again on Wednesday, after the Record deadlines, to replace a string of lights that wasn’t working properly after being removed from the tree and rehung on Tuesday.

“Not sure what happened, but it goes off and on somewhat intermittently, likely damaged somehow,” he said. “The lights were put on differently than I had, but overall it is similar.”

Erika Mashig, the city’s manager of arboriculture, horticulture, parks and open space planning, said the tree was being pruned as part of a larger scheduled pruning on the block. Pruning takes place at all times of year, but she said the best time to prune live branches is in the dormant season. 

Following the incident, Mashig said the contractor was lined up to reinstall the lights for the homeowner, but the city’s electrical department had a truck in the area and reinstalled the lights. She said the city will continue to reiterate city protocols with contractors.

According to Mashig, in cases like this, if the resident is home, the appropriate action would be for the contractor to knock on the door, announce the work that is to be performed on the tree, ask if the lights may be removed to perform the necessary work and offer to reinstall the lights after the work is complete. If the resident isn’t home, she said the work should be delayed until the crew is able to contact the resident.


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