House of Commons Hansard #178 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was flag.

Topics

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6.12 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

Holidays Act
Private Members' Business

February 10th, 1999 / 6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

moved that Bill C-401, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Flag Day) and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to discuss Bill C-401. This is not the first time I have introduced this legislation. It is not even the first time that similar legislation has been presented before the Chamber. I had an identical bill in the previous parliament that was votable but unfortunately it died on the order paper when the election was called.

For members here and for those watching us tonight, some may immediately jump to the obvious conclusion that there is such a thing as a flag day. Flag day is the third Monday of February or February 15. My legislation talks about making it the third Monday. Flag day is recognized on the February 15, which is the very day the flag rose over our nation in 1965 for the first time. Indeed the current Prime Minister proclaimed a day called flag day. The difference between that and my bill is that my bill seeks to make flag day a national holiday. That is to say that people would have the day off work to celebrate this event.

The background of this has a lot of history in this Chamber. It goes back as far as 1980 when my colleague in a previous session, Warren Allmand, presented a bill much the same as this. Back in those days they called this heritage day and indeed we have a heritage day as well which falls on the third Monday of February. This of course causes some confusion among people. I look at flag day as being a culmination of heritage day to recognize the heritage of all cultural groups in Canada under one flag.

Then there is a string of similar suggestions by the New Democratic Party. Stanley Knowles presented this legislation at one time, as did Ian Deans. A special consideration for my former professor. I have a bachelor of commerce degree but I always took political science just down the road here at Carleton University and in those days my political science professor for about three of those years was Dr. Pauline Jewett, which I know rings a happy note with some of my colleagues across the way. I can say that Dr. Jewett was somewhat responsible for leading me into the area of politics. It took a long time for me to remember some of her words and come back to this place, but it is in somewhat of her honour that I am able to stand in my place and present her very bill, although I now call it flag day as opposed to heritage day.

Mr. Speaker, sitting on either side of you is the Canadian flag. I have been very happy, every day I have been in the House, to wear this lapel pin, the Canadian flag. I have been very proud of my country and its symbols.

The flag is more than a simple piece of coloured cloth. It is the epitome of who we are as a country. It is a symbol. Canada is very much a young country. For some of us 1867 may seem like a long time ago but in reality, when we compare it to countries like Greece or European countries, our history is quite young. It is very important that a country, as it is evolving, evolves symbols of its unity as symbols of its people. I do not think there is any stronger symbol in Canada than our flag.

I know all of us have travelled to foreign countries and there is no question of the identity, when one is wearing that flag, of who one is, where one is from. Most important, it is not about geography, it is about what kind of people that represents, caring people who created this incredible country on the north half of the North American continent, the second largest geographical country in the world with tremendous democratic traditions over a short period of time. It has become the envy of the world. The Prime Minister often refers to the United Nations accreditation that Canada is deemed the best country in the world for its social services and so forth. This is really about agreements that we make with one another.

I was talking to some Cape Bretoners last night. Taxation came up. I said people like to talk about Ottawa, about money coming from Ottawa and going to Ottawa, but in reality what is really happening is that these are all agreements we make among ourselves. We agree in this place to share money with other citizens of this country for a variety of reasons.

I think these are the great things that Canada is about and why this symbol is so important to me and the Canadian people.

The flag debate has had a great tradition. I was a little younger but I can remember the flag debate in the House. I can remember the very day the flag went up the flagpole on this Chamber. Governor General Georges Vanier, Lester Pearson and hundreds of thousands of Canadians watched that momentous event. I also remember at that time the leader of the official opposition, Mr. Diefenbaker, with a tear in his eye watching the red ensign come down. It was a traumatic event in our history. It was a recognition of how we had changed. It was not about throwing out our old traditions.

A lot of people get involved in the monarchy thing. They always think we are tearing something apart. We are throwing something in the garbage. Our history cannot be stolen. Nobody can steal our traditions. What we can do is build on the strength of those traditions and move forward. I believe that is what the flag does.

I have not argued why I feel this should be a national holiday which is significantly different from what the Prime Minister did only a short few years ago. It should be a national holiday because it is a time that Canadians can reflect on their heritage, their culture and the things that make this a great country.

I know some people will suggest what is Canada Day if not that. I agree. Canada Day is another similar day on which we recognize our country. But flag day is unique in that it marks the evolution of our country in 1965. An argument a lot of people will bring is that we cannot afford flag day. That is another day off. People will not be working. Employers will have to pay for it. That is a lot of the argument brought up.

To give a comparison, Australia has 11 statutory holidays; Austria, 12; Finland, 12; France 11; our chief trading partner the United States, 11; Canada, only 10. In the scheme of things we can see there is room for another national holiday.

I will touch very briefly on the cost of that. It is a fair question and people are going to raise that issue. I have made a basic estimate of the labour costs for that national holiday of $1.5 billion. People will say that is a lot of money in lost productivity. It represents .16% of our economic activity. More important, it does not attempt to analyse what economic benefits would be gained by a national holiday.

Members may ask what benefits could there possibly be. Everybody will be sitting at home or hopefully going to flag day celebrations. How is that going to have an economic impact? I do not have to tell the House that we have Winterlude going on right now in Ottawa. People would use this to promote tourism and events and celebrate the flag. When people do that they have a tendency to go out and spend some money and so forth. So there is a direct economic benefit to Canadians to have this national holiday.

It is very timely that we are having this debate because Monday, February 15 is flag day. The time between New Year's Day and the next holiday, Good Friday, is about 91 days. In other words, it is over three months without a holiday. Many of my constituents and other people have said we need a break in the middle of winter. Winters are long and the days are short. It would be nice to celebrate our country and make something very important about that.

I have mentioned Canada Day. One problem I have with Canada Day is that it is in the middle of the summer. Invariably the very people we want to interest in this cultural evolution are our youth. Unfortunately they are out of school at the cottage or wherever and Canada Day kind of works but it does not work as well as I think it could.

That is why in my own riding I have been promoting flag day. It started off with one school the first year that the Prime Minister proclaimed that day. We went to the school and had a ceremony. We raised the flag and we talked about the great and wonderful things in this country. It was a wonderful thing to watch all these students with their Canadian flags singing O Canada. They were very proud of their nation and about who they are.

There was a teacher retiring. He was 55. He said “That is the culmination of my career. I have never been so proud to be a teacher at this school as this day”. That tells something about the emotion people feel about this event.

I have attempted with the help of the people on the school board to promote this because it is such a wonderful thing. Now it is at the point where I cannot go to all the flag day ceremonies in my riding. My whip is annoyed with me and other members as well because I will be away on Monday. I have three ceremonies that I am going to. Our biggest problem is supplies. We have to find hundreds and hundreds of paper Canadian flags.

It is a great event because we talk to those young people about the importance of Canada because it is their country. Clearly they are going to be the inheritors of this great nation.

We are all getting a little older and one of these days we are not going to be here. It is these young people who will step forward in our place and advance the cause of Canada. It is to these people that we are trying to promote the importance of this great nation.

We just had a debate on Bill C-55. I do not really want to get involved in that, but that is the whole issue that we are talking about, Canadian culture and our identity.

I think I have touched on most of the points that I wanted to raise. I wish this were a votable motion. I think it is a very important issue for all Canadians to identify the symbols which unite them as a nation and to honour them and make them even more important in their lives. If all of us did that on a day to day basis this would be a greater country.

I see some of my colleagues from the Bloc looking at me very auspiciously. It is a great experiment that we are all involved in here. We cannot unite under monarchial flags. It is time to realize we have a central purpose in this country and that is our flag. Our flag identifies that purpose.

I will close on that and I hope we have a very nourished debate about what I consider a very important issue.

Holidays Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to stand in the House today to speak about what it means to be a Canadian and to speak about the Canadian flag.

I have no small touch of history in this place with respect to the flag. I suppose therefore it was rather natural when this bill came forward that I was the one selected from our party to respond to it in this debate.

I am really curious about this bill because of the fact that I am probably known both among my friends and among my colleagues here in this place as being a very proud and a very grateful Canadian. It never leaves my mind.

Often I think how grateful I am that way back in the early 1920s both my grandfathers, although they did not know each other at the time, and my parents, who also did not know each other at the time, made the decision to flee Russia and make Canada their home. We sometimes complain about the rate of taxation here, but over in Russia they paid 100%. They left everything they had and fled to preserve their lives. They chose to make Canada their home.

My grandparents have been gone for some 30 years, but I remember going to my grandparents' place. My grandmother, in particular, many times, both in speech and in her prayers, expressed gratitude for the wonderful country in which we lived. She, my grandfather, my uncles and aunts shared many of their experiences in the old country.

This is quite remarkable because growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan in the 1940s and 1950s we were actually quite poor. We had very little of what we would call worldly goods. Yet here we were in this wonderful country. I suppose the feature they liked the most was the freedom which we enjoy here, the opportunity to work and provide not only for ourselves as a family but also to share with others.

That is a value that has been deeply ingrained into my thinking over all of these years and one which hopefully I have transmitted to my children. Hopefully they will transmit it to their children, since I now have three grandchildren. I shall take the opportunity, when they are old enough to understand, to explain some of our family history and to bring them to the place where they are not only proud Canadians but also, as I am, a deeply grateful Canadian.

We are discussing the issue of having a flag day, a special day to honour our flag. I too am old enough to remember quite clearly the time when the Canadian flag was brought in. As a matter of fact, on Monday, February 15, 1965 I happened to have been a grade 11 student in a small town in Saskatchewan.

I also remember the great degree of opposition there was to the flag, especially in that part of the country in which I live. The opposition was primarily from people who had fought under the old Union Jack, people who were involved in our great wars, as they are called, in which Canadians participated, many giving their lives.

I remember one of our neighbours, a person by the name of Mr. Payne. He had a permanent limp as a result of an injury he suffered in the war. I do not remember him specifically, but it was that kind of person who had some considerable objection to the changing of Canada's symbol because of what the old symbol meant to them.

Our Canadian flag is not without its history. The flag that we have now, the Maple Leaf, is a flag of which I believe we are all proud. We have made that transition. I am grateful to say that my family is now totally accepting of the Canadian flag. We are very happy that we have a symbol such as this to unite us as a people.

Not long ago I thought about the Canadian flag as being one of the very few things that universally ties us together. There are some who say it is our health care system. Yet the trouble with which our people are viewing the health care system now is such that it is hardly a great unifying force in our country. The health care system is in deep trouble, primarily because of the fact that the commitments made by the federal government at the time when it was brought in have greatly eroded. Consequently, while the Liberals particularly love bragging about the health care system, and we all wish we had a good one, due to their change in fiscal priorities over the years it is in great trouble. Therefore, I do not think our health care system can be said to tie us together.

We have other symbols. For example, the governing party of Canada. Does it unify us? As I recall, it got about 39% of the popular vote in the last election. That means that approximately 60% of Canadians probably would not view the present Liberal government as being a unifying force.

We have other symbols, such as our governor general. Yet when we realize that the governor general is but a token appointment, a patronage appointment of a current prime minister, then that as a unifying force is substantially diminished. I do not want to in any way denigrate the position or the person. However, it is not a huge unifying force.

Then I think of Her Majesty the Queen. I have spoken to a number of people in the last couple of years and, very frankly, a lot of people have shown genuine regret over some of the problems that have beset the royal family in England. There is a genuine concern and a compassion for some of the things they have gone through. Yet if we ask whether we are unified around our allegiance to the Queen, that too falls short.

I suppose we could come to the conclusion that the Canadian flag is probably the strongest unifying symbol in the country today. There may be some others that I have not thought of. However, I went through a small list of different unifying symbols or forces and probably the Canadian flag is the strongest one.

The question at hand is: Should we have a day once a year proclaimed as flag day? Should we have a statutory holiday in which everybody would make a special effort to celebrate Canada and that national symbol, the Canadian flag?

I have great problems with a motion of this nature for one very simple reason. To explain it I want to give a little analogy. There was a young fellow who was asked in church to sit down by his father, but he kept standing. His father put his hand on his shoulder and said “Sit down” and the boy stood again. Finally the father, very firmly, said “Sit down”. At that point the young lad turned to his dad and said “I may be sitting on the outside, but I am standing on the inside”.

I think that is a rather good illustration of what it means to fly the Canadian flag. If we bring in legislation that says “On this day you will fly the flag and you will do this”, it almost smacks of political or government manipulation of a desired behaviour. I think it is meaningless unless it comes from deep within.

Again I think of the stories my grandfather told. They were legislated into allegiance to their country. At the first opportunity they left because it just went on and on until they lost all their personal freedoms.

I in no way suggest that this bill takes away any freedom. I am saying that the idea of legislating a day to promote the flag leaves a hollow ring, at least with me. I think the much better way is to have people fly the flag with pride and with honour because of the fact that deep within, hopefully like me, they are proud and grateful to be Canadian.

Holidays Act
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I also have the opportunity to rise in the House to speak to the bill before us, which aims at adding a holiday to celebrate the flag. We already have a flag day.

It is in fact a sad day in Canada's history, because the first day we celebrated this flag day, we recalled that the Prime Minister had shaken up a demonstrator by grabbing him by the throat. And the Minister of Canadian Heritage, without knowing who the person was, called him a sovereignist.

So flag day has a bit of a blot on it in our history. Memory being what it is, I hope one day that we will have happier memories in this regard about Canada.

I have heard some rather unconvincing arguments on the subject of making this day a holiday, first, because the third Monday in February would make a fine holiday. If people are tired, collective agreements provide for sick days so they can take a day off if they need to.

Reading week happens about the same time, a week later. So there are holidays the following week.

Some have said that other countries mentioned have 10, 11 or 12 holidays. They probably have much more important events to celebrate than flag day. I for my part know of no country that gives everyone a day off just to celebrate the flag. When the argument is made that this might cost $1.5 billion in work time, we say that it is meaningless, that the amount involved is negligible in relation to the revenue generated by all these workdays. I think these kinds of arguments are not very serious.

I heard another argument, saying “There is Canada Day, but it is in the middle of the summer. It is hard to celebrate in the middle of the summer. If kids were in school, we could have a flag celebration for them, which would be more like an indoctrination or propaganda day than a day of celebration. We would like kids to be back in school, so that the celebration could take place at school”.

However, it seems to me that the argument put forward by the hon. member from the Reform Party could have some merit. That is always the problem with days like women's day, child day, mother's day, a day for this and another for that. I think that the flag should be honoured 365 days a year in all circumstances.

Personally, I am old enough to remember how the Canadian flag came to be. As hon. members will remember, under the leadership of Réal Caouette and his Social Credit Party, the French-speaking members of this Parliament argued vigorously in favour of Canada adopting its own flag, as we Quebeckers had a hard time relating to the Queen's flag, a flag that looked like the British flag and did not mean much to us.

Quebec has its flag, and I think Quebeckers venerate the flag of Quebec first and foremost, the flag that belongs to us, and tells who we are, because Canada was such a long time adopting its own. Personally, I have a great deal of difficulty believing that those two bands on either side of the maple leaf represent the Atlantic on the one side and the Pacific on the other. Oceans sure ain't what they used to be.

I can perhaps understand Canada's wanting to have a flag day, but I cannot see why it should be a statutory holiday. We in Quebec have a journée du drapeau, I know, but I would also be opposed to its becoming a statutory holiday in Quebec.

I believe that a flag day needs to be celebrated at work, for it is important in my mind to associate it with work and with the pride of living and working under the flag. We Quebeckers have our journée du drapeau and it is a day when we celebrate. But I do not see why it should be made a statutory holiday.

Canada has given itself many opportunities to promote its flag. The Canadian flag became very popular following the campaigns led by the Minister of Canadian Heritage. The minister distributed flags all over the country. Since one had to phone to order them, Quebec only accounted for 10% of total demand. I believe that, for Canada Day, spending was increased by 400% in recent years, with the result that Quebec finally got more than its fair share, since 63% of the budget for last year's Canada Day was spent in our province.

The flag is, of course, a symbol for a country. It is very difficult for me to tell Canada what it should do with its flag, but I do not think it should be used as a tool for propaganda or indoctrination. It must be something that people are proud of.

When I was very young, we used to sing the national anthem every Friday afternoon in school. We would salute the flag, but it was the Quebec flag. We sang O Canada , which was sung in Quebec long before it became Canada's national anthem.

This is how I was raised. I have always respected the flag. I will respect the Canadian flag as long as Quebec will be part of Canada. However, my allegiance is first and foremost to the Quebec flag, which I learned to love. I hope Canadians will learn to love their flag the way we learned to love ours, but without having to designate a legal holiday when no one goes to work.

Holidays Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill C-401 which would establish a flag day on the third Monday of February as a national holiday to be observed throughout Canada.

I appreciate the genesis of the hon. member's bill and his studies with Pauline Jewett. I also appreciate his faithfulness to the idea of heritage and I share that with him.

I was interested in the fact that the original concept was to have a heritage day and then it moved to a flag day. I must say that I have some concerns with the name.

I am not going to dwell on anybody's devotion to the flag as a national symbol, but I recall an uproar which occupied the attention of some in this place some time ago and it was all for the sake of a flag. That rancorous debate did not feed one child, improve our health care system, create a job, cut a tax or in any way benefit a Canadian. Therefore, I am reluctant to dwell too much on the flag, given the fact that it causes a great deal of problems for some people.

This debate allows for the dream of a well earned holiday for hardworking Canadian workers in the dead of winter, and I appreciate that. However, do we need a day to commemorate the flag? I think not. I appreciate the sense of inspiration which my hon. colleague gets from the flag and I respect that, but I do not think a day should be named after it.

I agree that Canadians should recognize their roots and their symbolic heritage. It is very important for us to draw strength from our roots. We need to find inspiration and guidance from the people who came before us. But I think that each of us looks to different people for inspiration.

I have found inspiration in an early suffragette named Francis Beynon. She was a journalist in Winnipeg in the 1910s. She worked for a newspaper called Women Grain Growers . For many years she spread information and communicated with isolated women on the prairies who lived on mile-wide farms and had no contact with anyone.

Francis Beynon taught women a lot about their rights. She was very involved in the struggle to get the first vote for women. When the first war came along she fought very hard to get the vote for immigrant women. That was not an easy battle because unfortunately there were a lot of women, even in this country, who were unwilling to allow foreign women to vote during the war.

Francis Beynon showed her patriotism not in her flag, but in her actions. She took this very important democratic stand. I respect her for that. It was not a popular stand. She also fought against conscription. I believe that she passed out of history because she did not take a popular stand.

I respect and find inspiration in people like Francis Beynon. I wonder whether I should suggest a Francis Beynon day. Instead, I think I would look at the concept of an ancestor day.

Other people might look to someone like Agnes MacPhail for inspiration. As we walk in the door every day we see the statue of Agnes MacPhail. She was the first woman member of parliament. She served in the House from 1921 until 1940. In 1943 she was one of two women to be elected to the Ontario legislature. She was also the first woman appointed to the Canadian delegation of the League of Nations, where she insisted on serving on the disarmament committee.

She is another important ancestor for many of us in terms of our political beliefs. She was a very important woman in Canadian history. She was a peacemaker and an inspiration to many women. Maybe we should have an Agnes MacPhail day.

Recently I had the privilege of being part of the unveiling of a plaque for Portia White in Preston, Nova Scotia. She was a very famous and inspirational black Canadian woman from my community.

Portia White was the first African Canadian woman to win international acclaim as an opera singer. She was a famous musician in our country. She was born into a musical family and taught choir in her church. She was a teacher and a community person who is remembered by thousands of people scattered all over the country. She has become well known as an inspiration for thousands of young black Nova Scotians.

I believe we should all celebrate our roots and our ancestors. They are the root to our patriotism. We should be helping young Canadians to find inspiration wherever they can. Instead of having a day that represents one inspiration, a piece of fabric with some red and white on it, it may be more appropriate to have an ancestor day. We accept the fact that we all have ancestors who we gain strength from. We should try to recognize them in a public way. That would go a long way in encouraging us to gain strength from our roots and in helping us to understand our roots better, and perhaps one another.

I do not agree at this time that we need a flag day. I do not think that is a wise option. Instead, I suggest that we have an ancestor day.

Holidays Act
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise before the House to debate Bill C-401, an act to amend the Holidays Act to have a flag day and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

First I would like to commend the sponsor of this private member's bill, the hon. member for Durham, for his obvious sense of pride and patriotism in both our country and our Canadian flag. Most Canadians would agree with these sentiments.

When I look up and see the Canadian flag flying high, I proudly recall all those who, throughout our history, fought to make Canada the best country in the world.

I think of the Fathers of Confederation, with their vision of a great country, I think of our war heroes who fought courageously to defend our freedom, and I think of the millions of Canadians who struggle daily to improve not just their own lives but the lives of their fellow citizens. They are what Canada is all about and they are what make this the world's most respected and wonderful country in which to live.

The Canadian flag represents the tremendous efforts of all Canadians who have worked so tirelessly to make this such a great country. It is the embodiment of what we have achieved together as a nation. I love our Canadian flag and I am tremendously proud of our country and our achievements, but I do not believe the flag should somehow overshadow the celebration and recognition we already offer to our great country. Obviously I am referring to July 1, Canada Day.

Every July 1, millions of Canadians participate in Canada Day celebrations across the country. Whether they are joined together across the country by means of satellite or whether they proudly fly the Canadian flag at home, whatever the case the results are the same. Canadians want to show their pride in their country. It is not solely pride in the Canadian flag but what it represents.

The Canadian flag was first unveiled on February 15, 1965, at an official ceremony in Ottawa. Many of our fellow citizens will remember that the decision to adopt our flag was not reached without heated debate on both sides of the House, and without input from many Canadians. The intensity of the debate is a testimony to the significance of the flag as a symbol representing us as individuals.

I believe the government too often forgets just how important a symbol the Canadian flag is to our identity. The Canadian heritage minister believes that handing out hundreds of thousands of free Canadian flags at a cost of millions of dollars is enough to qualify anyone as a proud Canadian. Although most of those who receives these free flags were likely proud Canadians, I am certain that they would have been even prouder had the minister and her government invested the money into much needed programs such as education and health care.

Like many of our fellow citizens, I have had the opportunity to travel abroad. I met people who talked to me just because I was wearing a Canadian pin. I must say I find it heart-warning to hear people say nice things about our great country. Canada is highly regarded abroad.

A Canadian pin is a symbol of what Canada and Canadians are in people's mind. When they see the Canadian flag, they see a caring and generous country, where free citizens live in a democratic society. It bears repeating, the flag represents Canadians, and it is to them we must continue to pay tribute.

There is a number of questions we should be asking ourselves regarding Bill C-401. Should Canada create a specific holiday with the sole purpose of recognizing an important symbol of who we are as a people and what we stand for as a nation? Or, should we not focus greater attention on promoting ourselves through an existing holiday, Canada Day, in such a manner whereby we could focus greater attention on educating Canadians about our history and the importance our flag has played in it?

On November 11 we celebrate Remembrance Day. For days leading up to it and including Remembrance Day we hear countless stories of the exploits of brave Canadians during both World War I and World War II, along with those who fought in the Korean War and our various peacekeeping missions.

These individuals fought and in many instances died so that we could enjoy the freedom we have today. It is because of them that we can fly our Canadian flag. Although in most instances their exploits were done prior to the adoption of our official Canadian flag, it does not diminish the significance of the Canadian flag being flown during these ceremonies. The Canadian flag is the embodiment of their struggle and sacrifice for the country.

Do Canadians across the country want another national holiday? Have the proponents of the bill actually held comprehensive discussions with representatives of Canadian industry or boards of trade to see just how another national holiday would affect the Canadian economy? Can the Canadian economy support another holiday? Canadian taxpayers may already believe there are too many holidays. I am certain when approached they would likely say that politicians already have too many days off.

Our fragile economy continues to struggle from the effects of high taxes and high unemployment. The Liberal government continues to refuse to reduce taxes which would help stimulate growth in the economy. It is intent on continuing to gouge Canadian workers for refusing to significantly reduce EI premiums even though reports show that a greater reduction is possible and necessary.

These are serious problems that Canadian taxpayers are facing on a daily basis. Can they legitimately afford to sponsor another holiday no matter how good or how just it might be?

I think more consultation would be required from across the country before we systematically created a new holiday.

I appreciate the most sincere attempt by my hon. colleague to draw attention to the importance of our great flag. I commend him for that. However, at the present time we can work within the framework of already existing holidays to accomplish the same goal.

Holidays Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

Guelph—Wellington
Ontario

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for Durham for bringing this issue to the floor of the House of Commons for debate.

As he may be aware, in the past I presented a private member's bill proposing the adoption of an oath of allegiance to the flag. I share his passion and his love for our country and its symbols which is why I felt it is important for me to speak on Bill C-401.

I support the spirit of Bill C-401, an act to amend the Holidays Act and make flag day a statutory holiday. I agree that flag day is an important day and that it should be recognized.

The flag is what symbolizes our nation. It is bold and represents our strength as a country. The maple leaf demonstrates unity with the stem, the federal government, binding the tips of the leaf, the provinces and territories, together. It is an internationally respected symbol and an ambassador of tolerance, peace and understanding. It is Canada.

Compared to those of other countries, our flag is quite young. It was only 34 years ago that parliament debated the adoption of a new flag. Imagine how exciting it would have been to see the maple leaf flying over the Peace Tower for the very first time. It is that excitement that I hope Canadians everywhere still feel whenever they see our flag.

A teacher in my riding of Guelph—Wellington is working very hard to make sure that our younger generations share that enthusiasm for our national symbols. Joe Tersigni has put a motion to the local Catholic separate school board that would require every Catholic school in the district to raise and lower the flag every single day. While this may seem like a normal process or way of doing business, as far as Mr. Tersigni is aware, no other school board in Canada has done this yet. This simple action would go a long way in teaching respect for our flag and our country. It would teach students that our flag is a treasured emblem of our nation, one that must never be forgotten or abused.

Mr. Tersigni's school, Our Lady of Lourdes, is hosting a special ceremony on Monday to commemorate the adoption of this important motion. On February 15, flag day, every Catholic school in Guelph will raise a new Canadian flag and the students and teachers of those schools will be reminded of all that it stands for.

Canada is a young country with an even younger flag, but that does not mean the maple leaf is not steeped in history and significance. Just think of what we have accomplished in the 34 years since it was adopted.

We have developed the Canadarm, a tool that has been critical to the success of many space missions. We have watched inspiring individuals like Terry Fox and Rick Hansen venture across Canada to raise awareness on very important causes. And we have twice hosted the Olympics and won numerous medals. We have worked to make and to keep peace in every corner of the globe. We have repatriated our Constitution. We have officially adopted O Canada as our national anthem. We have come into our own as a nation. All under our own flag.

These are just a few of the reasons why I feel it is so very important to recognize and celebrate flag day. I do feel that flag day deserves more recognition and promotion than is currently the case. If Canadians were to be polled, how many could say why February 15 is a very important day?

Wendy Willis, a teacher at Crestwicke Christian Academy in Guelph, recently brought her grade 4 class to citizenship court. Each new Canadian was presented with a handmade valentine. One of her students, Brad Lord, recited a poem welcoming the new citizens and outlining all that Canada has to offer. The closing line of his poem was “From coast to coast, it's all within reach”. The new Canadians no doubt believe this statement or they would not have chosen to make Canada their new home. The students believe it too, because now they have seen firsthand how special it is to be Canadian.

I believe it is through initiatives such as those undertaken by Mr. Tersigni and Ms. Willis that we can best educate Canadians to appreciate all that we have and to the importance of our flag day.

I would be remiss in not mentioning Joyce Hammond who two years ago suggested to my office and myself that we should think of doing an oath of allegiance to the Canadian flag. I put it forward in this very House as a private member's bill. When I did, over 500 municipal councils wrote to me, including a number of them in Quebec, and said that they agreed with this premise, that this should happen. Mr. Speaker, I put you on notice that I will be reintroducing the bill at some point in time.

As I mentioned earlier, I sincerely thank my colleague, the hon. member for Durham for proposing Bill C-401 because it gives us all an excellent opportunity to promote flag day and to encourage Canadians everywhere to take part in the celebrations. My hon. colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage says it has been wonderful to promote Canada Day and flag day and therefore I make special mention of him.

Whether it is by wearing a Canada flag pin on your lapel or dressing in red and white, or attending a flag raising ceremony, there are ways for everyone to show a little patriot love.

Canada truly is the greatest country in the world. Let us celebrate it.

Holidays Act
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Durham. I advise the House that when the hon. member speaks, he will close the debate.

Holidays Act
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think we have had a very useful debate today.

The members of the Bloc will not necessarily be supportive of the legislation. It was interesting to listen to the member as she talked about times when singing O Canada in that great province and because of the flag's association with the monarchy Quebecers felt that it was just too late to make that change, so they opted for another flag, the flag of the province of Quebec. I do not want to get into an argument about flags but the flag of Quebec of course is a monarchical symbol, the monarchy of France, so it seems unusual to me.

Similarly the New Democratic Party has its own wish list. It wants to recognize the women's movement. As I listened to the debate by the opposition I reflected and wondered what it must have been like back in 1964 when everybody had some reason not to proceed with the flag debate. They wanted to keep it the way it way it was, and we should be honouring some other group within our society. I am not saying that the member of the New Democratic Party did not have a good argument, but the reality is our flag unites all of us, women, men, everyone under one flag.

The member from the Reform Party thought that it was inappropriate to have just one day for celebration, that we should be celebrating this within our bodies every day. I suppose we could say the same thing about Christmas which of course is a national holiday. If one is a Christian why should there be a Christian holiday called Christmas? It should be something that is inside a person every day and there should not be a specific statutory holiday for that reason. The reality is that is what people have holidays for, to celebrate the things they think are unique in life.

The debate in the House is amazing. Other countries celebrate flag days because they are proud of their countries: Argentina, Finland, Haiti, Liberia, Panama, Paraguay, and the list goes on. Yet here we have this intellectual debate about why we cannot have a statutory holiday. I think that is unfortunate.

My concern was that it was not a votable motion. It would be great to carry on this debate for another two hours. I wonder if I could seek unanimous consent to continue the debate by making it a votable motion.

Holidays Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent that the motion be made votable, as suggested by the hon. member?

Holidays Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Holidays Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Holidays Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Holidays Act
Adjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to ask a question of the parliamentary secretary following a question I posed back in November with respect to a shortage of aviation inspectors.

My question was generated by a report put out by Price Waterhouse, a very well respected consultant in Canada. In the study it prepared it found that as the government moves from being a hands-on regulator to more or less a monitor and as we go through the deregulation process in the aviation industry there is a significant and concerning shortage of aviation inspectors to inspect aircraft and aviation facilities.

The study says that the growing wage gap between the private sector and the department means that the department must either choose between a shortage of inspectors or lower the qualifications. This is no time to lower qualifications for inspectors. It cites certain provinces in Canada that have inspector shortages in their areas of up to 20%. It puts a number on it and says there are 80 vacancies for inspector jobs in Canada.

My question is in the interest of ensuring that aviation safety is addressed on an ongoing basis. I feel it is, but I want to make sure in this circumstance and for this case that the minister is taking steps to ensure there is an adequate number of aviation inspectors and that they have adequate training to do the job.