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.