Letter of the law

I took a guided tour of of the Ontario Legislature this week. I’d previously sat in the visitors gallery and once attended a reception on a lower floor, so decided it was time to see the full panoply. 
Opened in 1893, the main floor, legislative chamber, and vast hallways are magnificent in oak. There are skylights, green and gold trim everywhere, and carvings above the doorways. The Mace, symbol of the Speaker, is displayed in a glass case for all to see up close because the legislature is not sitting. Crafted in 1867 it was regilded recently with two diamonds from northern Ontario added at the top under the crown. Beside it is the original wooden Mace from 1792. Stolen during the War of 1812 it was kept by the U.S. until President Franklin Delano Roosevelt returned it in 1934.
But for all the rich resonance of Ontario oak inside and Credit Valley granite outside, the west wing – reconstructed after a fire in 1909 – is curiously out of sync. The interior columns and walls are made with marble from Italy and the mosaic floor done with thousands of tiny tiles from Buffalo. 
All past premiers have portraits hanging done by artists of their choice. David Peterson’s stands out after a staid lineup of stuffed shirts and seated suits. His right arm is leaning on a fireplace mantel, his left hand is thrust into his pants pocket. He’s wearing no jacket, his tie and the top button of his shirt are undone, and his sleeves are rolled up.
Apparently Peterson told artist Linda Kooluris Dobbs that because he loved horses he wanted horses in the painting. As a result, reflected in the mirror above the mantel is a window with the head of a horse visible through the glass looking in. In case that wasn’t enough, his tie has several dozen small horses. Bob Rae is equally relaxed, wearing no jacket, seated at his desk. I could see no animals in his presence but there is an oddly empty chair dominating the left foreground. 
Strangest sight of all is the bronze bust just unveiled last month of Lincoln Alexander. He was Canada’s first Black Member of Parliament, the first Black cabinet minister, and the first Black Lieutenant-Governor. I knew Linc, worked with him in Ottawa, and I know he would have been proud to be so honoured. But there’s something off about the bust. At best, it’s taupe in colour. At worst, it’s got a green hue. How bronze couldn’t have been darker I cannot say. 

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