House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

11 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

moved, seconded by the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park:

That the House hereby commits to the adoption of its own institutional symbol which will reflect its distinct constitutional role, heritage and authority, and for this purpose requests our Speaker to develop a process which would involve Members and the public, invite and consider design proposals, allow the House to make its selection and take steps to protect and promulgate the symbol in the public work of Members and the House, all to be completed within one year from this date or such later time as this House or a successor Parliament shall allow.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to lead off the debate on the motion, a subject matter to which I have directed some attention over the years. I am hopeful the House will agree that it is time for us to consider the adoption of a unique symbol for the House of Commons.

I am pleased and want to thank the hon. member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park from the official opposition for seconding the motion. Clearly nothing is terribly partisan in the motion. It is an attempt to bring together the will of the House on a matter that I have believed always is important for the House.

The subject matter might seem narrow to some members when compared to other private members' business subject matters often debated and raised in the House but it is one that looks at the House itself and not outwardly at the broader public interest.

The House of Commons, as most members would accept, is a lynchpin in our constitutional form of governance. We are not the only part of government. The public sees the executive branch of government in most of what it does. The executive branch carries on most of the functions of government but the executive and the thousands of public servants working in the executive would simply have no legitimacy, no accountability if it were not for this House and the role played by this House.

Similarly, the judiciary, another branch of our form of constitutional government, would not have any laws democratically passed. It would have no laws to adjudicate if this House did not create the laws and amend them from time to time.

I review this only for the purpose of making the point that this House and its functions are important to the overall functioning of our democracy. It is the lynchpin institution without which the rest of government would not function at all as we know it now.

Over the years I have been struck by the degree to which members of this House have borrowed other symbols in their day to day work. When we look at our business cards, our letterhead, our stationery and our press releases we seem to want a symbol but we borrow those symbols. One of those symbols is the Canadian flag. Many of us use the flag and there is no problem in using it but it is not a symbol unique to this House.

The other symbol often used is the coat of arms. We find it consistently in use right across government. If we go down the street to the Supreme Court of Canada we will find the coat of arms. When we drop into any of the minister's office from time to time we find the coat of arms. The coat of arms is used by all of government. It is used at Rideau Hall by the Governor General to represent the unity of the Crown and all of Canada.

There is no harm in members using the coat of arms. In fact, it is placed right at the top of my own business card which I use as a member of Parliament. However it is not a parliamentary symbol as such. I say again that we borrow these symbols because we do not have our own.

It seems to me that just about all our historic partners in the evolution of democratic government have adopted their own symbols. I will refer to Westminster, the U.K. House of Commons. It has adopted a symbol called a stylized portcullis, the portcullis being the big gate that stands at the entrance to the castle, and it is unique to the British House of Commons.

As for our American neighbours, the symbol used by the House of Representatives is a stylized seal. It is found on most of what members of the U.S. House of Representatives do from time to time in their correspondence and communications.

Our own Speaker has his own symbol. Most members know what it is. It is the mace. The Speaker has used that symbol for many years. It is the symbol of the Speaker, not the House, although we find it from time to time on House documents wherein the Speaker has a role. Again let me note that even our own Speaker has a symbol but we generally in the House do not.

I want to underscore the importance of a symbol, a wordmark or what is called a trademark in modern communications. I suppose I do not have to make the point too strongly. I think most members will accept that in our society, and in the world in general, trademarks, symbols and wordmarks are incredibly important in communications.

One can see corporate or institutional symbols everywhere. The CBC has its own trademark symbol, as do General Motors and all of the television networks, including CTV and Global. I do not want to leave anyone out. The universities all have their symbols. My own high school has its own symbol, which is on a coffee mug that I still use from time to time. All of these symbols are part of a global industry in trademarks and wordmarks. They are all there for the purpose of assisting with communications.

We in the House do not have one. Even Canada itself adopted the Canada wordmark approximately three decades ago. That is the word Canada with a small Canadian flag placed above the last “a” in the word Canada. That has been a very successful communications device used by Canada consistently over the years. I think I saw it on military aircraft not too long ago. Then there is the Canadian armed forces, which is a very good example of the use of insignia, shoulder flashes and badges, symbols of the Canadian armed forces.

All of our institutions in society sooner or later get around to adopting a symbol; we just do not have one here yet. I believe that we need one for this institution to reflect our unique role as distinct from that of the executive, the judiciary in our country and as distinct from the other organs and agencies of government. We should have one. I think it will help us continue the role of making Canadians better aware of the functions and purposes of the House of Commons.

If we happen to look around the House we will note that the place is almost literally festooned with art as symbols. Various symbols are carved in the wood of our desks. We have stone carvings on the walls. We have stained glass windows with symbols and art. We have a ceiling with many symbols. I believe it was a gift of linen from the people of Ireland many years ago; it is still in good shape.

There are a lot of symbols but there is no House of Commons symbol. The great oak doors at the entrance to the House have carvings on them that are representative of many different things. There are also carvings all around the lobby, but there is no House of Commons symbol. There should be. I am looking forward to the day when there can be. I think we should seize this opportunity now, join the 21st century, adopt a symbol that reflects this place and embark on that process.

As I said, I do not see anything terribly partisan in this. I am hopeful of having support from all members of the House to embark on the process. As the motion says, this is a process led by the Speaker with consultations inside and outside the House. The consultations would produce one or more proposals which the House could deal with and select from. I am hopeful that the symbol we choose will be here for Canadians long after we have left this place, perhaps for centuries.

I encourage members to look favourably upon the motion and to consider adopting it. It is possible for us to adopt this motion today without going into further debate, but if there is a vote, I would ask members to consider voting in favour.

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking today in support of this motion. The goal of establishing a formally agreed upon symbol for the House of Commons seems to be a worthwhile one.

To some degree, institutions develop their own symbols in an informal manner. Sometimes the informally chosen symbols are the most valuable. Part of my comments today will be an observation about the informal symbols that we have adopted and their value, but there is no harm, indeed, perhaps there is a benefit, in attempting to formalize the symbols that we have informally started to adopt as a part or as symbols of this place.

Perhaps I will start by talking a little about the symbols which on their surface I think people relate to the House of Commons. These perhaps could serve as potential ideas to be thrown into the mill for future reference.

An obvious one is the mace, of course, which is already used. On all MPs' badges, which all members are assigned and which some of my colleagues are wearing today, the mace is used to signal that one is a member of the House of Commons. So the mace is already used as a method of identification elsewhere. The mace is used in other spots as the symbol of the Speaker's authority but also of the House itself. Of course that authority is given to the Speaker by the House and therefore at one remove the mace is already an important symbol of the House of Commons. There are good things and bad things about that.

The mace is a beautiful work of art and has tremendous historical importance. It is the symbol of the independence of the House, of course, because the original purpose of the mace was that of a club to be used by the Sergeant-at-Arms to fend off the king's men if they tried to come into the House when they were not invited. It has an important symbolism.

One problem with it is that the mace's design is not unique to the Canadian House of Commons. There are maces in other Canadian legislatures that are unique. I think of the very beautiful mace that I saw a couple of years ago when I was visiting Yellowknife; it is the mace of the Northwest Territories. It really is uniquely designed for that House. It captures both the tradition and the uniqueness of the territories. That was not done with our mace, which is identical to those used in a number of other countries within the Commonwealth of Nations.

Another thing that could be used as a symbol, of course, is the Speaker's chair or throne, which is also a very beautiful object. As well, the peace tower strikes me as being an obvious item that could be used as our symbol; certainly when people see the peace tower it is instantly identifiable with Parliament. One could argue whether or not it is more identifiable with Parliament as a whole, including the Senate, or whether we could legitimately appropriate it for our own purposes and use that as our symbol. These are all options.

I should emphasize, however, that right now we actually do use informally a symbol, the coat of arms of Canada, on many items that are associated with the House of Commons. For example, when members of Parliament select their business cards, one of the standard designs, and the design that I have used for my business card since I was first elected, includes the coat of arms of Canada. It is seen as indicating one's participation in the Canadian political process.

I am well aware that this is the symbol of Canada, the Government of Canada, and we could argue that therefore the House is not sufficiently distinct from it, but I do not think there is anything wrong with appropriating a symbol that is used more widely and saying that it is also our symbol. The House of Commons binders and correspondence folders many of us use also carry the coat of arms of Canada. It is even used as the default screen saver on our computers and appears on my computer whenever I leave it alone and do not use it for more than five minutes.

The coat of arms is a possibility. The whole idea of using coats of arms is one that is widely used by legislatures. I know, for example, that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario has its own coat of arms. That is its symbol. The easiest way to see this is by watching the Ontario version of CPAC, the channel that broadcasts the debates of the Ontario legislature. We see that coat of arms being used as the motif.

Actually, I think that is not a very good idea. I say that because its coat of arms bears no relationship to any of the symbols that are commonly associated with the province of Ontario. When we see the symbol, there is no instinctive understanding of what it represents. In some measure, I think it would have been better to just use the coat of arms of Ontario as its motif.

I have seen in other jurisdictions that I have either visited or lived in, the use of symbols derived from a coat of arms. Given the importance of coats of arms as our standard form of symbolic representation in Canada, it seems to me there might be some merit in this.

For example, the Parliament of the state of Victoria in Australia uses as its motif a southern cross, which is a simplified version of the coat of arms of the state of Victoria. That works quite well. It is clearly understood that is its symbol. The red lion of Tasmania which is taken from its coat of arms is used as the symbol of the Parliament of Tasmania. In Western Australia it is the black swan, which is central to its coat of arms.

If we look at the documents produced by the Quebec national assembly, we will see that the fleur-de-lys is used. It is part of the symbolism of Quebec. Documents, laws and white papers coming from the legislative assembly in Quebec are very distinctive and easily recognizable by the use of the fleur-de-lys as the ornamentation and background. As well, a distinctive font is used for all its documents, which is something else we might want to consider for the House of Commons.

My hon. colleague mentioned the use of seals in the United States. Coats of arms are not used in the United States apparently as a result of the fact that in the revolution, the Americans rejected any idea of aristocracy, nobility or symbols of nobility. Therefore the next thing to turn to would be seals. The U.S. President, for example, has his own seal and uses it to seal documents. That is a holdover from the seals that are used to indicate Crown authority. A seal is affixed by the Governor General of Canada to every law that is passed by Parliament. That is an American tradition and it fits within a pattern of usage. We have come to understand that each of the various departments in the U.S. has its own seal which typically then is put on a flag, if a department has a flag. It is used by various states. The idea of the seal as a symbol of authority is well understood in the United States.

In Canada the idea of a coat of arms is the central symbological notion. Therefore it seems to me that any symbol we take should potentially be derived from the coat of arms of Canada. We have a very rich and elaborate coat of arms. We could take an element from the coat of arms, simplify it and use it as our symbol. There are numerous maple leafs. We could incorporate the national symbol of the maple leaf into the symbol that is chosen.

It does not mean that items that are not in the coat of arms, such as the mace, necessarily would have to be excluded. However, I would suggest that some elements from the coat of arms be incorporated with whatever distinctively parliamentary item is put into the standard and accepted symbol of this place, whether it be the mace, the Speaker's chair, the Peace Tower or some other item.

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Mr. Speaker, in this nice little musical piece, I will have to play in a slightly different key. I feel like making a general comment to my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River, and I will make it with a typical Quebecois expression: They really must have time to waste in order to come up with such nonsense. It is laughably absurd to waste one hour of this House's time with such an issue.

Let me explain. You are not used to hearing me talk this way, but my remarks will be non partisan. Last week, members of Parliament did not sit, which is not the same thing as being on vacation. We had the opportunity to meet lots of people. Our parliamentary calendar provides one week breaks every three, four, or five weeks at the most for us to work in our ridings, meet people, organize events or simply be present in our ridings. I am convinced my 53 colleagues in the Bloc and I had a very active week in our ridings. We met and talked with ordinary citizens.

I have a scoop: no one I spoke with last week brought up the issue of a symbol for the House of Commons. I feel like directing my question to the people in our galleries, even if they cannot answer me. Is a symbol for the House of Commons a top concern of theirs? Is that not totally ridiculous?

As for the people I met last week, what issues did they bring up and what do they want to hear about? The unemployed want to know when the government is going to solve the problems with EI eligibility. Is it acceptable that only 40% of those who contribute to the employment insurance plan qualify, while 60% do not? Their concerns are not remotely connected to a symbol for the House of Commons.

Over the past week, we have met seniors and retirees who are still being penalized in terms of the guaranteed income supplement. Incidentally, I commend the work done by my hon. colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain on this issue. While some may have managed to put a little money aside for their retirement, many are having a hard time making ends meet. Some of them are watching us right now. Do you think that, for these retirees, with their small pensions and with old age pension increases sometimes totalling 47¢ a month, a symbol for the House of Commons is a top concern? Absolutely not.

Last week, we also met with community groups. Like us, they have been affected by cuts in the summer career placement program. In my riding, depending on the area, the cuts to this program vary from 31% to 50%. In addition, certain villages of the upper north shore are experiencing unemployment rates as high as 18%, 20% and even 22%.

The community groups need programs like the summer career placement program to help them provide services to the public and also to provide young people with some work experience.

Parents will be relieved if young people can earn money from jobs they got through the summer career placements program.

Community groups are angry with the Liberal government. They do not want to hear about the institutional symbol of the House of Commons. Come on.

This week, we met another group of people whose work schedule has allowed them to follow the hearings of the Gomery commission, which enjoys the highest ratings in Quebec right now. Taxpayer dollars have been literally stolen by this government and the Liberal Party.

Those following the hearings of the Gomery commission are familiar with the Liberal Party's wrongdoings: friends of the government, hired help on the payroll, the cash-stuffed envelopes, the $120,000 in dirty money for campaigns in ridings in eastern Quebec held by Bloc Québécois MPs. Do they think that the people shocked by the daily revelations from the Gomery commission want to hear about the institutional symbol of the House of Commons?

This makes no sense. I do not know who will be able to straighten this member out. He is constantly going off on constitutional tangents. Someone must talk some sense into him.

It will come as no surprise that, in my opinion, the Bloc Québécois will not be supporting my colleague's motion. It all comes down to good old common sense.

Maybe, one day, when all the other problems in Canada have been resolved, we will be able to think about this. However, we will no longer be part of this country, and, we will be able to say, if the House of Commons has a symbol, that it is a beautiful and an appropriate reflection of the country. But, by that time, Quebec will be a sovereign nation.

So, we are completely indifferent to this ridiculous motion. It will be a free vote, but I am convinced that the majority of my Bloc Québécois colleagues will vote against this useless, ridiculous and totally futile motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties and I believe you will find consent for the following:

That the recorded division scheduled to take place Tuesday, May 31, 2005, on the motion from the member for Prince George—Peace River, as well as the amendment from the member for Calgary Southwest thereto, be re-deferred to the end of government orders on Wednesday, June 1, 2005.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is there unanimous consent?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to enter into the debate on Motion No. 228 put forward by my colleague from Scarborough--Rouge River.

Let me preface my remarks by saying I have great admiration for the work of my colleague from Scarborough--Rouge River and the genuine interest that he has demonstrated on issues pertaining to Parliament and the House of Commons. We should acknowledge and recognize that he is a noted and published author on this subject. Perhaps more than anyone present, at this point in time at least, he also is seen as a leading authority on the subject pertaining to the House of Commons.

I enter into the debate with that preface to demonstrate that I acknowledge, recognize and welcome his interest in trying to have us be seized with the issue of the well-being of Parliament and the House of Commons and what that means in a constitutional democracy such as ours. Some of us who have been sent here recently and some of us who have been here for a long time sometimes forget how precious the institution of Parliament and the House of Commons is and the genuine affection in which we hold this place.

I represent the riding of Winnipeg Centre, which was home to one of the greatest parliamentarians in Canadian history. I will backtrack a little and share this with members. In 1921 the Government of Canada wanted to send J.S. Woodsworth to prison for his role as a leader in the 1919 Winnipeg general strike. In fact, he was up on charges of sedition for quoting scriptures from the Holy Bible and from the Book of Isaiah at the strike meeting in downtown Winnepeg. The federal government wanted to lock him up and throw away the key for that.

The people of Winnipeg Centre sent him to Ottawa to be their member of Parliament not to send him to prison. As a man of the cloth, as a minister, they felt that he was entitled to quote the scriptures in the midst of a gathering to do with social justice as one of the architects of the social gospel. He became known in this place as one of the champions of using the House of Commons for its intended purpose, which is to give voice to those commoners who may not otherwise have a voice under less democratic systems.

The reason I raise this point of history is that J.S. Woodsworth served as a member of Parliament for my riding for 21 years, from 1921 until he passed away in 1942. However, at that time the good people of Winnipeg Centre elected another champion of Parliament and a champion of parliamentary procedure in the name of the hon. Stanley Knowles.

Stanley Knowles went on to represent my riding with great distinction for 42 years, from 1942 until 1984, until a stroke made him unable to do so. He lost his seat only once during the great Diefenbaker sweep of 1958. However, during that time he became known as very much the conscience of Parliament and also a master of parliamentary procedure. All of us here will know that he was granted the exclusive honour of being given a permanent lifelong seat at the Clerk's table in the House of Commons. Even after his stroke made it difficult for him to carry on his duties as a member of Parliament, we could see Stanley Knowles sitting by the mace, where the Clerk sits in the centre of this institution. I would put it to members that no one in recent history loved Parliament more than Stanley Knowles. No one had greater admiration and respect for the institution of Parliament than the member for Winnipeg North--Centre as it was called then, the same riding that is called Winnipeg Centre today.

When I saw the motion of my colleague, the member for Scarborough--Rouge River, I asked for the opportunity to represent our party by speaking to the motion in memory of Stanley Knowles.

Stanley Knowles passed away six days after I was elected to represent his riding of Winnipeg Centre. I did not get a chance to visit him in the hospital to tell him that we had won his seat back. His seat went to the dark side for two terms and was represented by a Liberal member of Parliament from 1988 to 1997. I am sorry I did not get a chance to tell him personally, but I know that he was aware that the election had gone in our favour.

Therefore, for most of the last hundred years that riding has been represented by two of the greatest champions of social justice our country has ever known. I am speaking of J.S. Woodsworth and Stanley Knowles.

What really stands out in the career of Mr. Knowles is his admiration and respect for Parliament. Therefore, when I saw Motion No. 228, regarding adopting an institutional symbol exclusively for the House of Commons, I was excited by the idea.

I am not a great one for pomp and ceremony or even formal traditions in the country. I have outspoken views about whether we need the Governor General any more. Frankly, I am not a big fan of the monarchy. I will confess all those things. However, even more important, if we are to steer away from the tradition of the monarchy and perhaps the office of the Governor General, I feel there is a need for us to replace that ceremony, pomp and circumstance with our own made in Canada version of formal symbols like the House of Commons and Parliament.

I am very intrigued by the idea of having our own made in Canada crest, symbol or whatever it might be, so that this institution could reflect our unique constitutional heritage, authority and our role in Parliament. I see no harm in it. I certainly do not feel threatened by it. My colleague from the Bloc seems to get really annoyed with that idea. I do not know why it would irritate someone so much. If anything, it is harmless and there is no downside.

It does open itself to ridicule. I know around our caucus table when we were toying with the idea of what that symbol might be, some rather less than kind suggestions were put forward, given the current political landscape we are enduring today.

Some people said that perhaps the symbol should be a hog trough. I do not think that is kind at all. I do not share that idea and I would not support that. Some people said that it might be a broken arrow to symbolize the broken promises made to our first nations and aboriginal people in the country. I do not support that idea either. That would be a negative thing. Some of us like to believe that within the life of this parliamentary session we may see a formal apology by the Prime Minister of Canada for the tragedy of the Indian residential schools. We may see a new fiscal relationship negotiated between first nations and the federal government. Those are positive initiatives that none of us would want to diminish in any way.

I liken my colleague's initiative to the great flag debate that took place in the mid-1960s where there were very strongly held views on both sides of the debate such as whether we should have our own domestic made in Canada symbol that did not include the Union Jack in the corner. That was a hotly contested and passionate debate across the country.

This is of a similar nature, if not quite the grand scale. Within the parliamentary precinct, I think it will awaken the same kind of interest from various members of Parliament of all political parties. We already have seen how apoplectic my colleague from the Bloc Québécois gets at the very notion of institutionalizing anything to do with the nation state of Canada. Again, I do not share his views.

I acknowledge and admire my colleague from Scarborough--Rouge River for rising above the fray of everything else that is going on in Parliament and bringing to us something that we can reflect upon and perhaps even move forward with that may be a lasting testament or a legacy issue for this 38th Parliament. Let us face it, most of the other issues we have been dealing with are divisive. This may be inclusive and something of which we can be proud.

I am voting in favour of the motion and I am urging my other colleagues and my own caucus to do the same.

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Motion No. 228 put forward by the member from Scarborough—Rouge River.

I had the good fortune to work with the member from Scarborough—Rouge River while we were both sitting on the Special Committee on the Non-medical Use of Drugs.

I have seen first-hand the commitment of the member for Scarborough--Rouge River to the institution of Parliament and the House of Commons. I have seen his integrity in terms of the history and the process by which the House and Parliament should govern itself. He is a committed parliamentarian and a very knowledgeable person about the history of this institution and the important role it plays in our democracy.

I learned from him, for example, about the scrutiny of regulations. He has become a bit of an expert in this rather esoteric field, but he reminds us of the importance of parliamentary oversight and scrutiny.

I have seen the sincerity of the member for Scarborough--Rouge River in his motion and his desire to develop a Canadian symbol, a distinct symbol, for the House of Commons. Our colleague, the member for Lanark--Frontenac--Lennox and Addington, gave us a rather interesting descriptive of the difference between seals, which we often see in the United States, and the idea of a coat of arms and the tradition that represents. I found his intervention also interesting and rather useful.

The member for Winnipeg Centre described the proud tradition of his riding, including the hon. Stanley Knowles who served this institution with great honour. My father happened to be in Parliament at the time Mr. Knowles was here and he shared the respect that the member for Winnipeg Centre has for Mr. Knowles.

These are important reminders of the importance of the House of Commons. It is the centre of Canadian democracy. Identifying itself with its own symbol might reflect the cherished democracy that the House represents.

The motion as introduced by the member for Scarborough--Rouge River correctly leaves this in the hands of the Speaker. He will lead a process by which there would be consultation among members of the House, but equally important among members of the public. The Speaker is in a position with members of the House to look at what would be the best way to receive input from the public. Our colleagues referred to the flag debate which was an important defining moment in the history of our country. For the Speaker to engage the public in meaningful participation in terms of suggesting what this symbol might look like is a very worthy initiative.

Less important in terms of institutional meaning, we are reminded of Canada Day. School children in various provinces across Canada are asked to submit a drawing or a painting on what Canada means to them and the winner is chosen on Canada Day. That competition has incited considerable interest among school children with respect to the meaning of Canada Day and our national holiday.

The involvement of schools and of young Canadians through a discussion on the appropriate symbol for the House of Commons could prove very useful. I do not share the views of my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. I had the opportunity to work with the whip of the Bloc during meetings we attended as part of our role as parliamentarians. He is a devoted member of Parliament, one who speaks very strongly for his riding.

However, in this case, I do not agree with him on the importance of this issue. On the contrary, I do not think it is up to us members of Parliament to pass judgment on private members' motions or bills.

We have not chosen to heap such scorn on private members' bills or private members' motions because they are an essential part of our democracy. They allow our colleagues to bring forward issues, to have the benefit of input from colleagues, and then to have the House of Commons pronounce itself. This is obviously a matter that will come to a vote. I respect that process. Those of us on this side of the House respect the private members' process. I would urge the member from the Bloc to have the same deference that we have with respect to motions or bills brought forward by private members.

The government intends to support this motion because we see it as an important step in beginning a process that may lead to a uniquely Canadian symbol for the House of Commons. We have heard colleagues talk about other legislatures and other jurisdictions. Those are certainly worthy suggestions. We believe that to initiate this process, led by the Speaker, involving members of the public and then giving the House of Commons a chance to decide on its own symbol is certainly worthy of discussion.

That is why the government will be supporting this motion. I would urge other members to allow this process to proceed. We look forward to seeing the various suggestions that will come from this. Because the Speaker, as in the wording of the motion, will to some extent lead or coordinate this process, at some point it will obviously be important for the Board of Internal Economy to look at what resources might be needed for this process to be undertaken should in fact the House adopt Motion No. 228.

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address this motion which is related to a symbol that would represent the House of Commons and those who sit and work here.

First, I wish to acknowledge that I have seen the work performed and done by the member of Parliament who is presenting this particular motion. He is a member of the opposite party and, who knows, that may change over time. We see in this House of Commons that it does change from time to time when people walk across the floor. I will still acknowledge and be in hearty agreement with some of the things he has done.

However, I have to pose some questions about this particular motion. First, and this is entirely his business and he does not have to respond to this, is this something that this constituents are clamouring for?

Last week I was in my constituency. I heard about government corruption. I heard about the Auditor General's comment saying that the government is mired in the worst financial scandal in Canadian history. I heard about the fact that the government presented a budget at one point several months ago, to which my party gave somewhat tacit support. Then, when the government thought it might lose a confidence vote, it shifted its goal. The government shifted and in a dramatic change of events blew a $4.6 billion hole in the federal budget to buy 19 votes.

I suggest that from what we have seen in the last couple of weeks here, people would be selling their votes for a lot cheaper than $4.6 billion for 19 votes. If we believe certain polls that we are seeing about how people perceive members of Parliament and how they perceive the House of Commons, the symbolism is not good. The symbolism is one of people who cannot be trusted, of debate that does not matter, and of discussion that focuses on things that are not at the heart of the concerns of Canadians.

I know too often that members listen to their constituents selectively. MPs will have their own view on something and they will hear one or two people talk about that view and then say they are hearing that from their constituents.

I have not heard from one person across Canada who wants us to spend time and resources, however little that might be, on a symbol of this place. We are faced with all kinds of things. I cannot even say another letter poured in today because it has not happened.

What are we doing spending time and energy, and focus in this place on something that I for one, and as I am hearing from other of my colleagues, no Canadians are asking for? We need a symbol all right. We need a symbol of honesty and integrity, and one in which members are truly representing their constituents.

We do not need to spend time in this place to craft yet another symbol. There are symbols of this place. We have already heard of Parliament Hill, the Peace Tower and the mace. How many more symbols do we need? We have a much bigger problem in this country. It is a lack of confidence, not only in the government but in the political process in and of itself.

We have been seeing and hearing a lot in the news these days about the decorum in this place. When we look at history, and this is not condoning bad behaviour in this chamber, the demeaning personal attacks that take place from time to time, any first year student of parliamentary history will know that this place is always charged with emotion, name calling and sometimes insults. When we look back at what took place in this House even in the late 1800s, believe it or not but members of Parliament would come in here with bagpipes to drown out another speaker. Now I have heard some speeches in here that I would like to drown out with bagpipes.

There has been the throwing of food and at one point dead chickens across the floor to silence someone, and drunkenness was known to be almost an every day activity even by political leaders. I will not mention which party because it could diminish our history. We can go to the Liberal rat pack that supposedly terrorized and did outrageous things in this place. I am not condoning any bad behaviour in here.

Let us not go into some kind of septic shock at the fact that it has been contentious here in the last few weeks. Let us use the present concern as a way to tone things down, be more respectful, and talk about the issues that matter most to Canadians.

As everyone can see, I am restraining myself. I am not getting personal on this. I have acknowledged some of the previous good work done by this member of Parliament, but to spend time in this place talking about coming up with a symbol for the House of Commons, something that not one Canadian has asked for, to me is counterproductive at best. The symbol that Canadians want to see is one of respect and integrity.

Canadians understand there will always be divisive debate, robust, vigorous and sometimes fractious debate, but they want to see a symbol represented by human beings not something we are going to hang on a lapel or stick on a wall somewhere. It is a symbol of respect for the fact that citizens have elected us and sent us here to speak about the things that matter most to them. That is the symbol they want.

Even when there are issues that constituents may disagree with from time to time, at least they know there are men and women in this chamber who rise to speak about issues of importance. That alone will help to reinvigorate and restore the tremendous lack of confidence that they have in this government. Clearly, there is a lack of confidence in this government. We do not believe every poll we see. The ones that show us doing well as a political party are of course the very scientific ones and the ones that do not show us doing well are not that good.

It is disturbing to see the social indices that suggest, just as the results of the survey that came out today, that politicians may or may not return a wallet they find on the street. Canadians were asked which politicians they thought would return a wallet. That is a tremendous indictment in some ways, but it is understandable. If the government will not return $250 million in the biggest financial scandal in Canadian history, then why would Canadians think they would return a mere wallet they find kicking around?

These are the symbols that people are looking to. People are looking to each of us as members of Parliament and saying they do not want us to come up with something symbolic but to do something real that will restore a sense of integrity to this place.

An interesting poll came out today that asked who people trust. CBC did the poll and I am going to give the CBC 1 point out of 10, which I do not often do. It did acknowledge that people were also asked the question of how much trust they put in the media. Trust in the media actually had a very low rating too. They were sort of duking it out at around 11% with how much trust they have in members of Parliament. I appreciate that the media at least was being honest in acknowledging that there is not a whole lot of trust by the public in the media itself.

That brings us back to the issue of symbolism. Members of Parliament speaking with integrity, speaking about things that matter to their constituents, and doing that on a consistent basis will be the only thing that will turn around public perception. It is not a lapel pin with a backdrop of the Peace Tower saying “Trust Me” or “Vote for honest John” or “Vote for honest Mary”. It will be words, actions and follow-through on a consistent, daily basis, and not erratically from time to time standing up and giving some kind of pronouncement about wanting to serve our constituents.

With great respect for the member who brought this forward, I cannot vote for this motion. This time is designated and we have to use it, but I cannot vote for something that will have us spending more time and resources, however little, to give a symbol of this place when the symbol that Canadians are asking for are symbols of honesty, integrity, hard work, and speaking up on the things that matter most. I am not suggesting the member opposite lacks any of those qualities, but to divert time and attention to something so uncalled for by the Canadian public is just not worthy of our time here and I cannot support this motion.

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was not going to speak to this but I feel compelled to, following the statement made by the last speaker.

I remember when I was teaching I brought a number of students here, as we have students in the Commons here today. One of the members was standing and speaking about the closure of one of our satellite and military stations upon which the local economy was tremendously implicated.

My students were quite befuddled by the fact that most of the members were either reading their newspapers or carrying on discussions. They were asking their teacher to give an explanation as to why there was this lack of respect, this lack of dignity for a member who was representing the views of constituents, as have been represented so often by members on all sides of this House on agricultural issues and farmers, and the issues we have had with respect to the closing down of postal stations.

I do not find at all the motion that has been put forward as empty symbolism. I do not know what empty symbolism is when it is talking about dignity and about being charitable with respect to the opinions of others and how we deal with them. I do not know what empty symbolism is when it is applied to this House in the context of what our public has a right to demand from us in terms of what they see and what they hear.

Should that be any different than what we expect to see and hear if we were in any classroom in this country, if we were visiting the schools, if we were engaged in local activities with respect to very high opinions and highly charged atmospheres back in our own constituencies? I recently experienced one where we had nearly 2,500 people on a single issue.

What I think is very important to emphasize is that there should be respect for the opinions that are being put forward and that ultimately the community, in its collective wisdom, if the process is transparent, up front and has integrity, would prevail. It seems that is the democratic process. That is what is represented by what we believe should transpire in this place.

I do not know what empty symbols are when they are applied to what we expect from ourselves as individuals from our institutions, be they represented in government at all levels through this House; be they the institutions of law, order and justice; be they the corporate institutions as represented by fiduciary responsibilities and so on.

All too often our public sees institutions that are eroded because the fundamental values that support them are not respected by the individuals who practice them.

Therefore, rather than the member having his motives or intent brought into question, the very process of discussing this motion adds credibility and integrity to this House, regardless of whether we think those symbols are empty or not. It would be my opinion that the symbol of this House is the respect for various opinions, our ability to put those forward, yes, in a partisan manner, but one that is charitable and cognitive of the rights of individuals to put those opinions forward and defend them.

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed from May 20 consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, an act to establish the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, be read the third time and passed.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the hon. members of this House at third reading stage of Bill C-9, an act to establish the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

This legislation has prompted excellent debate within this House and in committee on the major issues surrounding regional economic development. This is a very important time for all those interested in the economic development of the regions of Quebec.

Bill C-9 sets the parameters by which the Government of Canada intends to contribute to the economic development of Quebec. Consideration of this bill began last fall.

Collectively, we face many challenges. We are reminded of this each and every day in the current economic situation, whether one of our companies finds success abroad or a plant has to close its doors for lack of viable markets for its products.

Businesses are at the heart of economic development for the regions of Quebec and lead the economic development of each region. For us, giving support to business translates into more dynamic and more competitive companies that can create more wealth and jobs in the regions.

Moreover, the bulk of new jobs created in Quebec were in businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

Today, we have multiple possibilities for creating wealth, and also for increasing productivity, inventiveness and flexibility. A number of businesses and sectors of activity in Quebec are still too vulnerable to the ups and downs in the world economy. It is therefore the duty of a responsible government such as ours to support these businesses and to orient them so they may adapt or transform their approaches, their manufacturing procedures and their products.

I need only refer to the difficulties in our textile sector to convince you of the importance that all of us, whether executives and employees of businesses, community volunteers, stakeholders in regional development or government, must assign to innovation and improving the productivity of our businesses.

We are not, moreover, the only ones to hold this view. In its study, “OECD Territorial Reviews: Canada”, the OECD concluded that “for the Quebec economy to move to a higher trajectory, the productivity of small businesses must be improved, management performance upgraded, and efficient technologies acquired.”

Through its IDEA-SME, program, Canada directly supports businesses involved in targeted projects, including export and innovation, thereby moving into the future.

I would like to take a moment to quote the words of Mr. Yves Goudreau, Director of Business Development at Premier Tech Ltée, a firm located in the Lower Saint Lawrence area. When he appeared before the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology he said, and I shall quote:

The loans granted by CED for the development of innovative technologies have allowed Premier Tech to create one of the most important private regional research and development centres....

Without these amounts, we would have, without any doubt, directed our product development to the partial improvement of products. In the middle term, this delay would have caused the withdrawal of our products from the market, because of the constant optimization of the products of international competitors, who are continuously working on the development of new, innovative concepts.

Since 1997, CED loans to Premier Tech have enabled more than 400 direct jobs to be created, and close to 200 innovative products developed. As a result, the company's sales have grown from $50 million to $300 million.

This is very eloquent testimony to the importance of the assistance provided by Canada Economic Development and of its clear impact on the development of a business.

In general, the businesses that have benefited from CED funding have significantly increased their sales and staff. More than three-quarters of them would have been unable to implement their projects had it not been for the agency's assistance, while others would not have been able to see their projects through on the same scale or to complete them within the same timeframe. Moreover, the agency's average cost recovery is 75% of the repayable contributions. That is one of the best in the government.

By devoting itself to the start-up and development of small businesses, Canada Economic Development helps create and maintain jobs, besides having an impact on the restructuring of local economies. That is why, through its support of businesses in Quebec, it is also promoting the economic diversification of communities and helping to ensure the economic stability and vitality of the various regions of Quebec.

These figures speak for themselves and tell us loud and clear that this government is right to rely on assistance provided to businesses in all the regions of Quebec.

Take for example Sixpro inc., of Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, in the central Quebec region. In January 2005, a repayable contribution of nearly $400,000 was made to this business to implement a project designed to improve its productivity.

This metal colour coating company will acquire new equipment and improve its operating methods. This important undertaking will allow 200 jobs to remain in the Sainte-Clotilde region and some 20 more may be created.

This support from Canada Economic Development is another solid example of what we mean when we say we want to have everything in place to promote optimum productivity and thus better business performance.

I would also like to mention another example, the firm BCH Unique Inc. of Saint-Martin, Quebec, which got $200,000 in support last February in order to improve its productivity.

The company will reconfigure its assembly line and acquire some high tech equipment in order to eliminate bottlenecks and improve the working conditions of a number of employees.

Canada Economic Development's tangible commitment to the economic development of SMBs in Quebec has to be seen as an investment in the future and prosperity of a business in Quebec and as a major contribution toward improving the quality of life of many people in a community.

You will agree that this mandate is very important, and Bill C-9 will make it possible for us to do what the people of Quebec want done to carry it out.

I would therefore invite all members of Parliament to vote in support of Bill C-9 and in solid support of the development of Quebec's businesses and regions.

In closing, I move, seconded by the member for Pontiac, that the question be now put.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the argument made by the member for Honoré-Mercier concerning Bill C-9. As we already know, the Bloc Québécois opposes this bill not so much because of some aspects relative to job creation or regional development but mostly because it creates a new entity. Actually, while there was an agency, we are now creating a department in order to give the federal government more tools to intrude in the development of Quebec regions. This is why we cannot accept this bill.

That being said, how can we possibly find his argument consistent with the fact that, for instance concerning the summer career placement program on which we have worked during the past few weeks, most of the rural regions of Quebec have suffered substantial cuts, thus encouraging out-migration in rural areas? In my view, this is a contradiction that totally invalidates his argument.