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Evidence of meeting #20 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was carmichael.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

I have to tell you I've had people express concerns in my riding as well, especially around Canada Day. Their condo board or the people who own their apartment building said they couldn't display the flag on their balconies or in their windows, so I think you are really on the right track here.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

Thank you, Mr. Young.

Go ahead, Mr. Cash.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Carmichael, for coming here today. I thought my riding of Davenport was the most diverse riding in the country, and now we'll have to go mano-a-mano on that one.

When you started to think about this bill and craft it, did you talk to municipalities and provincial officials--in other words, those in other jurisdictions?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

No, I didn't go outside of Don Valley West.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

I mean just generally--

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Do you mean officers, etc.?

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Yes.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

I talked to my local councillors about the issue, but this to me was more about the Canadian flag. Did I take it to the level of trying to determine who had jurisdiction over flying a flag in a particular area? No, I didn't go that deeply into it. I went to the extent that if somebody wants to fly a Canadian flag, as a federal representative it's my opinion that they should have that right.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Forgive me if that surprises me, because your party and the government are very much sticklers about jurisdictional rights. They are constantly telling the opposition that the government can't do something because it's going to infringe on provincial rights or it's a municipal issue and they can't touch it.

It strikes me that the issues we are bringing up in the House of Commons every day are very weighty and significant issues, yet here you're presenting a bill for us to debate when there has been no thought about the jurisdictional impact of it.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Let's just deal with the foundation of this issue. This is for people primarily in their residences, at home. My goal is that if I have a home and live in a neighbourhood where I want to fly my flag, I should have that right. I doubt there is a lot of municipal interaction on that, but it all has to be taken into consideration and should be part of the discussion. We should talk about how we can do this in a way that doesn't create division, but unity.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

As I've said before, in my riding people love to fly the flag. One of the many joys of this job is to have a supply of them that I can give out to my constituents. It is a really good feeling, and I think all of us would agree with that.

Over 50% of the people in my riding either weren't born in Canada or are first-generation Canadians, and what the Canadian flag represents for them is very important.

I have to say that in your preamble today you gave an example of veterans who have sacrificed enormously and were not able to publicly display their pride by flying the flag. I think we need to take that seriously, but I keep coming back to homeless veterans in the city of Toronto. You're a colleague of mine in Toronto, and I haven't heard you say a word about that. It strikes me that if we're talking about the pride of the flag, we have to talk about what the flag means. If we're hanging veterans out to dry by not providing them with housing, I'm just wondering where your priorities are.

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

Mr. Cash, just a second; there's a point of order raised.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

I have a point of order. We're talking about a private member's bill on the display of the national flag. We're not talking about veterans' issues. I would encourage the member, if he has concerns with veterans' issues, to ask his party to transfer him to the veterans affairs committee.

Could we possibly deal with the private member's bill and give the member the respect he deserves by talking about his bill? If you could bring the member back on track to the substance of the bill, I'd appreciate it.

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

Mr. Cash, I will ask you to stay focused on the flag issue.

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Well, I thought I was, Mr. Chair.

My friend did bring up some egregious issues around veterans and the treatment of veterans, and I actually agree with him on this point, so I don't think I was straying at all, but I will try to focus a little more narrowly. I just wanted to bring that up.

You spoke about being on condo boards. I, as well, have been on co-op boards, and other people I know have been on residents' associations in apartment buildings. Essentially they're tasked with making sure that their building complies with municipal codes. Trying to balance the idea that they can't prevent anyone from flying the flag against the responsibilities of their roles on these boards puts a heck of a lot of pressure on what is essentially a volunteer board. How do you balance that out?

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Clearly, these boards are made up of volunteers who have the best intentions for the residents they represent. I don't have an axe to grind in that regard. I think they're doing the best they know how, given that they live within municipal constraints, fire regulations of some sort, or whatever the issue might be, and I think they have to observe those.

I'm talking more about how sometimes when these boards get organized, they start to build rules on rules. Then you have turnover on these boards; new blood comes in, new people come along, and they try to improve on the old solutions that were in place earlier. Sometimes they stray off course, and with regard to flying your Canadian flag on your balcony in an appropriate way and meeting all of the jurisdictional requirements within the condominium, I'm saying that with dialogue and with reasonable people and reasonable minds coming together, there has to be a way that we can respect the pride and the desire of Canadians to fly the flag in such an environment.

Right now when you talk to those issues, I think they stray offside. I think they stray beyond their original intent. I think the good intentions get superseded by the desires of others, and I'd like to see that corrected. I also think it's incumbent on us as parliamentarians to express to condo boards and the like that this is important, and that it's the intent of this government to encourage people to exercise that privilege.

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

Thank you, Mr. Carmichael.

Go ahead, Mr. Simms.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Carmichael, first I'm going to commend you for the principles that you brought forward here. I enjoyed your speech in the House of Commons. I really did. I thought it was heartfelt. I was once a brand new member of Parliament too, and now I'm starting to sound like a senior, but I'd just like to say I was impressed with it. It certainly was heartfelt.

The situation that you've described in your riding doesn't happen much in my riding because I don't have a lot of condominiums, but from time to time it happens, and usually measures are taken at the time to alleviate the situation so that people can fly their flags.

The bill you intended to pass here obviously carries with it a huge penalty. I'm assuming today that your intention is to take the penalty aspect out of the bill, and that you want it to become more of an encouragement. Would that be correct?

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

That's correct.

February 2nd, 2012 / 11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

One of the problems that we may have here has to do with the standing orders. The standing orders dictate that when you accept a bill on second reading, you accept the principle of the bill itself, and it seems to me that a lot of the bill is weighted toward the penalty phase and toward forcing people not to behave in a certain way. Clause 3 outlines that; it's a big part of the bill.

When you bring a bill back to the House, if the Speaker—not only we, but also the Speaker—finds that you've gone beyond the principle and scope of the bill, he will say that he has to rule these amendments out and that the bill must therefore be put to the House as it currently sits, with the penalty phases in place.

I appreciate what you're doing here, which is to make this more of an aspirational type of legislation, but what happens if the Speaker says that you've gone beyond the principle and scope of the bill and that the penalty phase, or in particular clause 3, must remain in this bill? How would you recommend to proceed at that point?

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Clearly, from the beginning of the bill's introduction and in the debate and discussions we've all had at different points in time, the intent of this bill has always been to create inclusion, not exclusion. I hear your point clearly, and I have done a bit of research on it myself to determine whether a change of this nature, in fact, still falls within the confines.

My goal was never to put people in jail. My goal was to create a dialogue and an environment in which people would come together. My goal was also that we could all agree, as I think we did in one of the interviews that we experienced together, that this is about the flag, so let's find a way that we can agree to take this bill forward on an encouraging basis to create more inclusion.

My understanding is that the amendments we are contemplating today still permit this bill to move forward within its original intent.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Okay.

Can I characterize it by saying that with all the penalties that you've imposed in clause 3, you really wanted to be tough with this in the beginning? You were an angry man, were you not?

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Simms, I don't get angry.

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!