by Gérald LeBlanc
On June 26, 1970, in Quebec’s National Assembly, Claude Castonguay, the new minister of social affairs, was introducing the bill that would set up the province’s public health system. He had just begun his speech – or rather a recitation in his habitual grave monotone – when a page brought him a note signed by Jean-Noël Tremblay, an acerbic opposition member. The note read, “If you keep up this tone, the anesthetists will sue you for unfair competition.”
When it comes to political show business, Castonguay is indeed a poor performer, both on stage and – as demonstrated in his Mémoires d’un révolutionnaire tranquille (Memoirs of a Quiet Revolutionary), recently published without much fuss in Quebec and even less elsewhere in Canada – in his writing. Too bad, because this is the richest political essay published in Quebec since the beginning of the century. It is an important book because of the author’s stature and because of his enlightening reflections on two fundamental issues: the place of Quebec in Canada and safeguarding our public health system.