Mr. Speaker, people want to keep me from speaking. They will be no more successful today than in the past. I intend on exercising my right to speak.
My colleagues have said some kind things, and I would like to thank them. It reminds me of a very popular Loto-Québec ad, in which they say that it is important to always be nice to people who play Lotto 6/49. I have a feeling that here, in this House, the advice would be to always be nice to the person who is leaving to host a daily public affairs show.
I would like to take this final opportunity to thank you personally, Mr. Speaker. As luck would have it, our paths have crossed throughout my career in the federal Parliament, when you were parliamentary assistant to the government House leader. You and all the employees here have always worked to allow us to express ourselves, to say what our constituents want us to say. What a wonderful profession it is to uphold the rights of democracy. That is your profession, Mr. Speaker, and that of so many people working behind the scenes, such as the clerks—whom I salute—and everyone else who works in the House to make our job here easier. I would also like to thank the pages who have served us so loyally, year in and year out. I would like to say a few words about the pages. I learned to take them seriously in a rather interesting manner. In 2004, during a debate at the time of my sixth election, I was up against a House of Commons page from the previous year who was running for the NDP—he was running for the riding next to mine—and it was a difficult debate. In going up against him, I learned that a person's worth is not measured in years. I encourage my hon. colleagues to take our pages very seriously. That was my most difficult debate. He was very kind, however, and made no comments about our past experiences together in this House. He acted as if he knew nothing of it and focused on the content.
I would simply like to express to my leader, to my colleagues and to all those present in this House, the esteem in which I hold them and the pleasure I have derived from working with individuals who are so well versed in various areas of the life of our society. It is a great privilege to associate with individuals of such high calibre as the men and women seated in this House.
It is true that in our discussions we have said some things to one another. It is true that we have had some heated exchanges. The House leader of the official opposition referred to that earlier. It is true that we have had some good discussions—some very good ones for us and less so for them. In the end, we have lent our voices to democracy. As long as the citizens who elect us view us as individuals capable of expressing their views, the way they would if they had the opportunity to find themselves here, and to give their opinions, as long as we do this, we will be good parliamentarians and we will continue to maintain the image of what a true representative of the people should be.
I would like to thank my family and my staff, who have supported me throughout my lengthy career. In particular, I would like to thank Sylvie and Fabienne, my two assistants, who have been at my side for almost 14 years and who were always up to the task.
We would not be members of this Parliament without our organizers, our workers, those who look after us, and those who generously support us in defending our ideas during election campaigns.
At this point, I have a less agreeable message for my adversaries. I know that some are happy that I am leaving and are saying, “After this election, he has decided to leave. Perhaps now we can win the riding of Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean”. Well, I have some bad news for you: you will not win the riding of Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean. I am sorry to have to say that. I know that members of each political party will work to get out the message in the next election campaign. I know that the Bloc Québécois will try. Unfortunately for my adversaries, I do not believe that my leaving will change anything. Having said that, the citizens will decide and we shall see what their verdict is.
Naturally, I wish to thank the voters for being so patient with me. Today, I have a great deal of affection for the people in my riding, where my children and grandchildren still live. This region needed representation and still needs the support of the various levels of government. There are many economic problems. The difficulties resulting from the softwood lumber crisis predominate. Farmers are experiencing many difficulties and the unemployed, who are excluded from the employment insurance program, face many difficulties. However, I know that there will always be individuals in this House who are attuned to these difficulties and who know that we are all duty bound to find solutions for our less fortunate fellow citizens.
The last thing I would like to say to all of you is that I wish you much happiness and all the best in the future. I hope that you make the best possible decisions for your electors and that what happens in future turns out for the best for each and every one of you. I have truly liked all of you and I am leaving with the lasting memory of all the colleagues I have been fortunate to associate with from all political parties. I wish to thank you very much, it has been a pleasure.