Mr. Speaker, first of all, allow me to congratulate you on your appointment. I would also like to congratulate you and your family, especially your son Chad Kilger, who plays for the Montreal Canadians and was yesterday selected his club's player of the month for the province of Quebec and Canada,
I would like to thank those who re-elected me this past November 27. We had a good campaign. The riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik is, I would remind hon. members, the biggest riding in all of Canada. It extends over more than 800,000 square kilometres and has a population of 100,000.
I dedicated this election to my wife, Diane St-Julien, who has been following me and helping me through the last three mandates and who will continue to do so in this one. I also thank my daughter, Sonya-Kim St-Julien, who, for the last four elections, has been giving me advice on communications.
I wish to thank the voters of the large riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik for giving me a fourth majority, in all of the riding's 68 polls. My hometown is the municipality of Val-d'Or, but I also represent a community located in Nunavik, 2,000 kilometres north of it, called Salluit.
I thank the Inuit from Nunavik, the Cree from James Bay, the Algonquin, the Algonquin communities and the other residents of my riding for this great victory, and particularly thanks to our leader, the Prime Minister of Canada and Liberal member for Saint-Maurice.
In the throne speech, we were told that a better future awaits us. We must put forward a project that will not leave anyone behind. Above all, we must set priorities and draft a specific plan. This is what was done in the red book during the last election campaign.
We realize that, during an election campaign, we must face a number of political parties. A 30 day election campaign is fair ball. There are pros and cons. Some people have claimed that my election on June 2, 1997, was a historical aberration. This is not so: it was my mother's birthday on that day.
The member who claimed that there was a historical aberration the day of my election has seen that we have fixed that aberration, as I was re-elected on November 27. All of that to say that the member who made the statement in my riding was wrong again.
In any case, what are we concerned about today? The specific plan of the Liberal government, with our Prime Minister at its head and the new options available to us, be they innovation, learning skills, connecting Canadians or trade and investment.
The Liberal government is providing prospects for children, families, health and quality care, a healthy environment, strong and safe communities, a dynamic Canadian culture and most importantly new windows of opportunity for us internationally.
In a large riding such as Abitibi, we are concerned with the price of metals in the mining sector. We have gold, copper, palladium and vanadium. There has been a price war for the past three years. The price of gold was always pegged at under $300 and rose above it only once. Cambior, a company recognized worldwide, got it because gold was sold on option.
The throne speech calls for building our health care system. Last September, in an effort to modernize our system, the Liberal government gave the provinces an extra $21.2 billion over five years. At issue is better meeting the needs of Canadians. This is a priority, which received much attention during the election, and today we hear mention of it again.
What is important? Not treating people in hospital as clients. Those sick in hospital must be treated as human beings. Together with the provinces, we must find solutions. That is what is important.
In addition, we must give thought to creating a registered individual learning account for employees, help Canadians establish a training plan and find the necessary funding. For those aged 45 to 50 who have lost their job, new ways must be found to enable them to return to the labour market.
What is important in recent years is that our government, with its expertise, has run this country with all members of the House and has paid down the debt, given fair tax breaks, and invested in health, in research and innovation, in families and children and in the protection of the environment.
On the topic of research and innovation, we know that in a remote area such as Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, considerable money is needed to help universities and cegeps. The rector of the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, in Rouyn-Noranda, has submitted projects involving primarily forestry in the Amos region. For Val-d'Or, the focus was on underground communications and multimedia, and for Rouyn-Noranda, on various other areas.
The important thing is that we need this money to boost research, particularly in a riding where natural resources are so important, whether in mining or forestry. We have trouble getting secondary and tertiary manufacturing going.
Be that as it may, in the coming months and years we will improve prospects for people in our region. The government will work closely with the private sector to offer broadband high speed access to citizens, businesses, educational institutions and all communities, particularly in a region such as ours, which takes in northern Quebec, Nunavik and James Bay.
The government plans to introduce communications. Recently, we have seen Bell Canada double its telecommunication rates in Nunavik. Why? The company told the Inuit and those working in this sector that, now that too many people were using the Internet, it would double their rates in order to lower rates for Internet users.
That is a good one on Bell Canada. It is doing a great deal of harm in Nunavik, and the people do not find it amusing, since they are the ones having to pay.
It is also important for new approaches to be found. I strongly believe that the government, via the minister responsible for the economic development of Quebec or via Industry Canada, is going to put new methods into place to help northern Quebec, James Bay and Nunavik.
What is important in our area is health, quality health care in particular. We know that we need to work hard in conjunction with the governments, the government of Quebec in particular, to find physicians. We also need to improve the situation of hospitals and to add to the numbers of nurses in a region as large as ours.
We must speak of Nunavik, because it must be kept in mind that the Inuit pay taxes just like southerners do. Recently I spoke with the President of Makivik corporation, Mr. Pita Aatami. He said that new ways must be found to help the hospitals administered by Kativik corporation, by the Nunavik health board, and improvements must be made in order to attract nurses.
What is important is to work very hard in this House in order to be accountable to the taxpayers, to the people in that great riding, to Quebec and to Canada. We must plan in order to reduce taxes, move toward a new economy and strengthen our communities.