Mr. Speaker, this has not been the finest hour in this House. As a matter of fact, I am disappointed to stand and take the floor today to talk about some of the rhetoric that surrounds this issue.
There are a couple of points that I would like to make at the outset.
Members of the official opposition have been speaking to the effect that only small desk flags would be the result of the passing of the motion before us. However, the motion clearly states that the flag would be no larger than that of a standard recognized flag. This indicates that a flag of any size would be permitted to be displayed on desks. I would ask why members opposite are being so selective as to the flags they are referring to in the debate we are having today.
Another point is that members of the official opposition have been stressing the importance of flags being permissible in the House of Commons. I remind these members that it is difficult to sit here in the House today and not see the two Canadian flags proudly displayed on either side of the Speaker's chair.
These two points aside, I have thought about this issue a lot over the past week and a half, as I know many of my colleagues have. I was in the House the day the flags were spontaneously waved and our national anthem was sung. I was in the House to see a member of the official opposition throw a Canadian flag on the floor of this Chamber.
I understand the emotion of members of this House and of Canadians upon learning what the hon. member of the Bloc said about the display of our national flag in the Olympic village. Her comments were, at least to say, unfortunate.
However, the actions in this House upon her return have also done damage. They have further politicized our national emblem. It has been used as a mere prop of nationalism.
This motion does not suggest that flags be mandatory. My question to members opposite is if I do not have a flag on my desk and my seatmate has a flag on his desk, does the logical extension then say that he is more nationalistic, a prouder federalist than I am? I think not.
Nationalism and patriotism run deep. They are not limited merely to the display of our national flag. They are demonstrated in numerous ways, too many to count.
Need I remind our colleagues that just over two months ago regions of Ontario and Quebec, just across the provincial border, close to the Hill where we now are, were stricken by an ice storm? Need I remind members of this House how Canadians of all political stripes, from all regions, from all backgrounds and ethical beliefs banded together in a massive demonstration of nationalism of the strongest kind, nationalism of action?
We are elected representatives to the House of Commons. We are elected to represent the people of our constituencies. We are elected to use our best judgment when dealing with sensitive issues based on our firsthand knowledge. We are elected and sent to this House to debate government policies and to initiate action.
I do not deny members of the official opposition the right to introduce any motion of their choice on their allotted day. I do, however, regret that they have decided to further debate the issue which was ruled on yesterday in this House by our Speaker; an issue which most parties represented in this House recommended be directed to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for further study; a study based on precedent and the conventions of this and other parliaments, particularly those of the Commonwealth countries.
The fact that members of the Reform Party do not support this recommendation, which is based on respect for the institution and the procedures of our democracy, further demonstrates that their motion is not about patriotism but merely about politics.
Members of the Reform Party are using the flag as a lightening rod to attract the attention of the media, overshadowing larger issues, issues which need to be discussed in the House, issues of job creation, health care, child care and industry development.
Let us not allow politics to be ruled by sound bytes used by the media, short clips heard on television and printed in newspapers. Yes, these things do provide information, but it is only a snapshot, not the whole picture.
The issues we deal with in the House are much larger and much more substantive than the way this whole issue has been portrayed.
I ask the House to return to the issues of importance to all Canadians. I ask Canadians to see this motion as one that will not move the envelope of Canadian unity toward a lasting stability for the country. Canada's future lies in a strong society.
I ask that the orders of precedence be respected and that we return to work on the important substantive issues facing the country which will make longlasting differences and help shape the future for all Canadians.