House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was flag.

Topics

Ways And Means
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1) I wish to table two notices of ways and means motions. The first is to implement a Kamloops Indian band tax on alcohol, tobacco and fuels. The second is to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997. I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of these motions.

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

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March 17th, 1998 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Kitchener Centre.

We usually begin our addresses in this place by saying we are pleased to rise on the particular issue. I wish I could say that about this issue.

The first thing I want to do is surrender to the authorities if that is appropriate, to admit my guilt that I waved a flag in this place. Members opposite referred to someone over here waving a full size Canadian flag. Guilty. The member for Scarborough East and I held it up. We sang the national anthem. We were proud to do it, no question. We were making a point to the separatists and to the reactions of the member for Rimouski—Mitis at the Olympics.

The deputy House leader for the Reform Party seems fit to chirp as she leaves her seat. She knows and you know, Mr. Speaker, that members of the Reform Party are absolutely nothing but opportunists in this issue. They are a disgrace to this place. They are a disgrace frankly to the Canadian flag for using it for their own political benefit. Reform Party members should be ashamed of themselves for what they are doing.

Far be it for me—

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3:05 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

You never want to wave it again?

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3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Mississauga West, ON

If the member opposite wants to take her seat and debate this in a normal fashion, I would be delighted to take her on.

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3:05 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

I did that already this morning. You were not here when I was speaking.

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3:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Order. Hon. members may feel free to address other hon. members through the Chair.

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3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would make the point that if members of the official opposition really wanted to deal with this issue in a proper parliamentary form, they would participate with the House leaders in coming to a resolution. There is an option.

Government representatives and all other representatives of every party in this place came to an agreement proposing that the House Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs could be mandated to study possible uses of the flag on Parliament Hill and in the House based on the conventions in other parliaments, particularly in the Commonwealth countries. I could support that if that was the motion put forward by the opposition. It would make sense. It would calm the issue down. It would allow for some proper time to study how we might more appropriately use the Canadian flag in this place and in the precincts around the capital and Parliament Hill.

Far be it for me to quote from the media, but I want to read from an article that Andrew Coyne wrote. It says there is nothing wrong with “a little flag waving so long as honest love of country is the motive”. I think the Canadian people will in time recognize the motive of the Reform Party as being purely political in this matter. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech. No one's freedom of speech is restricted in this place as long as they do so within the rules.

It is an interesting thing that happened. We broke the rules and I think everybody knows it. Some 200 of us waved little flags in the air, my colleague and I held up the large flag, and we broke into a rendition of O Canada . I was proud to do that and I would do it again.

Even though I know it is against the rules in this place, it was important for once to make the point to the Bloc Quebecois, to the member for Rimouski—Mitis that we do not accept her remarks at the Olympics with regard to the display of the Canadian flag on behalf of Canadian athletes and Canadians everywhere. In fact it was a proud thing to see.

It was particularly proud to see the Olympic athletes smuggle in that huge flag. And it is against the rules in the Olympics. It was the second time it has happened at the Olympics. It became the focal point of the televised section of the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. It was a marvellous thing to see. If it bends the rules a little bit, so be it. Those athletes, not all of them kids, had a Canadian heart beating in them and they wanted to share that with the world. They wanted to tell the world that they had just competed for their country.

For a member of Parliament to make a comment like the separatist member has made is enough to make the hairs stand up on the back of one's neck. We wanted to send a message and did so with our demonstration. The message is that Canadians right across this land, including Canadians who live in Quebec and want to stay in Canada, are fed up with that brand of separatism as that member would try to sell to her constituents back in Quebec.

My constituents have called and said they were really angry with this. They know we have called a vote to put the flag on every desk. They think it is a difficult argument but wonder why we would not put a flag on our desks. Maybe we should.

I have been in legislatures and Parliament for several years and I have seen many, many instances where the rules were bent. I have seen people filibuster by reading names and addresses out of telephone books. Should we make that legal? Is that a proper form of debate?

When I was in the Ontario legislature I even presented Mike Harris with an American flag to make a point. The point was that we could see the Americanization of the agenda that has since come out as the common sense revolution.

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3:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Point over there.

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3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Mississauga West, ON

The member says I should point there and he is right, but I have trouble pointing to the left when I talk about them.

The reality is that I did that for effect. I knew that the Speaker would admonish me and say it was not proper parliamentary procedure. I also knew I would not do it again because the point had been made.

We also made the point to the separatists. Let us not forget that what the Reform Party is doing by turning this into a debate over our cherished flag, by saying we have a bigger flag than they do or that we are prouder to be Canadians than they are, we are totally allowing the separatists to get off the hook. They started this. They are the ones who denigrated our flag with the comments by the member, on federal taxpayers' dollars, at the Olympic games with Canadian athletes fighting for their country. And we are letting them off the hook.

I object to the cheap political antics of painting a car. Imagine. A member has put a private member's bill forward as a result of one of the Reform members actually throwing the Canadian flag on the floor of the House of Commons in anger. The private member's bill states that it will be a criminal offence to desecrate the national flag of Canada. It should be a criminal offence. If that bill existed, that member would be hauled out of here and charged with a criminal offence.

For Reform members to now get on their high horse and try to tell Canadians across the country that only they care about the flag, I reject that. It makes me so damned angry. Canadians right across the country are proud of our flag and proud to be Canadians and so is the Liberal government.

These people are just playing cheap politics which in fact is a method of denigrating the Canadian flag. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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3:10 p.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member says that we are letting the Bloc Quebecois off the hook by bringing forward this motion.

I would suggest that the member is letting it off the hook by opposing this motion. The member is saying that we are to be patriotic yet he is castigating that party because it said there are too many flags at the Canadian Olympics. The member is saying that is wrong. There should be flags at the Canadian Olympics. But what the hon. member is also saying is that there should not be in the House of Commons, the federal government of this country.

I still suggest that if there is a problem in this House it is not the matter of the Reform Party's bringing this motion forward, but rather the hon. member rejecting the idea that Canadians should be able to see their federal members with their federal flag on their desks. What is wrong with that?

I asked a question earlier but time did not allow it so I was cut off. I put it to him. The minister of heritage spent over $20 million of taxpayer money giving away flags and trying to get Canadians to be more patriotic. Why, after spending all that taxpayer money, is he opposed to a small display of the Canadian flag here in this House of Commons?

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3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the Reform Party opposes the distribution of flags by this government which was an attempt to share the patriotic view of the House of Commons. It was done on behalf of all members across the country.

I did not say I am opposed to the flag being displayed. I am not opposed. It currently is displayed and I can see two of them as I speak. If the Reform Party were serious it could have adopted the agreement made by most members in this House over the weekend. The members said the issue should be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the committee be mandated to study the possible use of the flag on Parliament Hill.

If we really want it done, we can send it in the proper procedural way to a committee. Let the committee bring a report and we can depoliticize this issue. To play games with the Canadian flag is to do an injustice to that proud flag that I will stand behind in my constituency.

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3:15 p.m.

Reform

Jake Hoeppner Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have been in this House for four years plus but I have never during all the time in this House seen anybody destroy the integrity of this House and the credibility like the member who just spoke.

This is what it says on this little label: “As a loyal Canadian, please wave this flag the first time you see the Bloc member stand up to speak in question period”. These flags were put out by the member for Oshawa. The credibility of this government is such that I am mad, and damn mad. My relatives died for a flag. This type of credibility in this House is not deserved and I want to know what this member would do when a gun was pointed at him, not just a little stick?

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3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand the passion the member feels because I too feel passionate about this issue. He is right. It was a Liberal backbench member who put these flags in everybody's desk and the message was to send a message to the member from the Bloc who was making the comments in Japan, and we sent that message with pride. I stood here and waved a full size flag in this House with pride and sang the anthem with pride. My relatives fought for this country too.

They do not have a corner on being self-righteous about this country or about this flag and I resent the comments by that member attacking my integrity and the integrity of this government. We should send this to a committee. We should calmly discuss it and if the committee can come up with a way to properly and in a larger way display our wonderful flag in this House, then that is what we should do. It would be supported by all members.

It is not grandstanding the way the Reform Party is doing it that will work and solve this issue.

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3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this has not been the finest hour in this House. As a matter of fact, I am disappointed to stand and take the floor today to talk about some of the rhetoric that surrounds this issue.

There are a couple of points that I would like to make at the outset.

Members of the official opposition have been speaking to the effect that only small desk flags would be the result of the passing of the motion before us. However, the motion clearly states that the flag would be no larger than that of a standard recognized flag. This indicates that a flag of any size would be permitted to be displayed on desks. I would ask why members opposite are being so selective as to the flags they are referring to in the debate we are having today.

Another point is that members of the official opposition have been stressing the importance of flags being permissible in the House of Commons. I remind these members that it is difficult to sit here in the House today and not see the two Canadian flags proudly displayed on either side of the Speaker's chair.

These two points aside, I have thought about this issue a lot over the past week and a half, as I know many of my colleagues have. I was in the House the day the flags were spontaneously waved and our national anthem was sung. I was in the House to see a member of the official opposition throw a Canadian flag on the floor of this Chamber.

I understand the emotion of members of this House and of Canadians upon learning what the hon. member of the Bloc said about the display of our national flag in the Olympic village. Her comments were, at least to say, unfortunate.

However, the actions in this House upon her return have also done damage. They have further politicized our national emblem. It has been used as a mere prop of nationalism.

This motion does not suggest that flags be mandatory. My question to members opposite is if I do not have a flag on my desk and my seatmate has a flag on his desk, does the logical extension then say that he is more nationalistic, a prouder federalist than I am? I think not.

Nationalism and patriotism run deep. They are not limited merely to the display of our national flag. They are demonstrated in numerous ways, too many to count.

Need I remind our colleagues that just over two months ago regions of Ontario and Quebec, just across the provincial border, close to the Hill where we now are, were stricken by an ice storm? Need I remind members of this House how Canadians of all political stripes, from all regions, from all backgrounds and ethical beliefs banded together in a massive demonstration of nationalism of the strongest kind, nationalism of action?

We are elected representatives to the House of Commons. We are elected to represent the people of our constituencies. We are elected to use our best judgment when dealing with sensitive issues based on our firsthand knowledge. We are elected and sent to this House to debate government policies and to initiate action.

I do not deny members of the official opposition the right to introduce any motion of their choice on their allotted day. I do, however, regret that they have decided to further debate the issue which was ruled on yesterday in this House by our Speaker; an issue which most parties represented in this House recommended be directed to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for further study; a study based on precedent and the conventions of this and other parliaments, particularly those of the Commonwealth countries.

The fact that members of the Reform Party do not support this recommendation, which is based on respect for the institution and the procedures of our democracy, further demonstrates that their motion is not about patriotism but merely about politics.

Members of the Reform Party are using the flag as a lightening rod to attract the attention of the media, overshadowing larger issues, issues which need to be discussed in the House, issues of job creation, health care, child care and industry development.

Let us not allow politics to be ruled by sound bytes used by the media, short clips heard on television and printed in newspapers. Yes, these things do provide information, but it is only a snapshot, not the whole picture.

The issues we deal with in the House are much larger and much more substantive than the way this whole issue has been portrayed.

I ask the House to return to the issues of importance to all Canadians. I ask Canadians to see this motion as one that will not move the envelope of Canadian unity toward a lasting stability for the country. Canada's future lies in a strong society.

I ask that the orders of precedence be respected and that we return to work on the important substantive issues facing the country which will make longlasting differences and help shape the future for all Canadians.