Daniel Johnson Sr.

Francis Daniel Johnson Sr., PC, (April 9, 1915 September 26, 1968) was a Quebec politician and the 20th Premier of Quebec from 1966 until his death in 1968.[1]

Daniel Johnson Sr.

Francis Daniel Johnson
20th Premier of Quebec
In office
June 16, 1966  September 26, 1968
MonarchElizabeth II
Lieutenant GovernorHugues Lapointe
Preceded byJean Lesage
Succeeded byJean-Jacques Bertrand
MNA for Bagot
In office
December 18, 1946  September 26, 1968
Preceded byCyrille Dumaine
Succeeded byJean-Guy Cardinal
Personal details
Francis Daniel Johnson Sr.

(1915-04-09)April 9, 1915
Danville, Quebec, Canada
DiedSeptember 26, 1968(1968-09-26) (aged 53)
Manicouagan dam, Quebec
Political partyUnion Nationale
Spouse(s)Reine Gagné


Johnson was born in Danville, Quebec, Canada. He was the son of Francis Johnson, an anglophone labourer of Irish heritage, and Marie-Adéline Daniel, a French Canadian. He was raised bilingually but educated entirely in French.

In 1943, Johnson married Reine Gagné. In 1953, she survived being shot twice by her lover, Radio-Canada announcer Bertrand Dussault, who then committed suicide.[2]

His sons, Pierre-Marc Johnson and Daniel Johnson Jr. also became premiers of Quebec: remarkably, each as a leader of a different party, Pierre-Marc as leader of the sovereigntist Parti Québécois for a brief period in 1985, and Daniel Jr. as leader of the federalist Liberal Party of Quebec for nine months in 1994.

Member of the legislature

Johnson won a by-election in 1946 and became the Union Nationale Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for the district of Bagot. He was re-elected in 1948, 1952, 1956 and 1960.

He served as parliamentary assistant to Premier Maurice Duplessis in 1955 and Deputy House Speaker from 1955 to 1958. He became the target of cartoonists who portrayed him as Danny Boy.[3]

Cabinet member

Johnson was appointed to the Cabinet in 1958 and served as Minister of Hydraulic Resources until the 1960 election which was won by the Liberals. He was the minister who started the Manic-5 hydroelectric project in 1958 of which its Daniel-Johnson Dam was named after him.

Party leader

Johnson was elected party leader against Jean-Jacques Bertrand in 1961. His party lost the 1962 election against Jean Lesage's Liberals, but he was returned to the legislature.

His 1965 book Égalité ou indépendance ("Equality or independence") made him the first leader of a Quebec political party to recognize the possibility of independence for Canada from the British Crown—and if the English-speaking Canadians didn't want to be independent, then Quebec could do it alone. His position on the issue was seen to be ambiguous: as he wrote in his book, his position was for "independence if necessary, but not necessarily independence" (a reference to Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King's famous utterance in the World War II conscription debate).


Under the same slogan, Égalité ou indépendance, his party won the 1966 election and he became Premier of Quebec, a position he retained until his death. His term was, among other things, qualified by tensions with the Government of Canada over constitutional matters, because as Premier of Quebec he put forward proposals to reform the Canadian constitution based on the notion of two equal nations as opposed to ten equal provinces.


In July 1968, Johnson suffered a heart attack which kept him from work until mid-September.[4]

On September 25, 1968, Hydro-Québec, the government-owned utility organized a ceremony to mark the completion of the Manicouagan-5 dam. Hundreds of dignitaries, politicians, utility executives, financiers, engineers and journalists were ferried by plane from Montreal, Quebec City and New York to the worksite to attend a banquet and a plaque unveiling ceremony.

Among the guests were Johnson, his predecessor, Jean Lesage, and René Lévesque, the former Hydraulic Resources minister responsible for the consolidation of all investor-owned utilities into Hydro-Québec in 19621963. Photographs taken at the banquet show the three men were in excellent spirits, holding hands and smiling,[5] although relations between the Liberal leader and his former cabinet minister were strained by Lévesque's recent defection to the Mouvement Souveraineté-Association, a precursor of the Parti Québécois.[6]

In his memoirs, Hydro-Québec executive, Robert A. Boyd, recalls being woken up at 6 a.m. the next morning by his boss, Roland Giroux. "I've got bad news, Robert...", said Giroux, adding that he just found the Premier lying dead in his bed. Johnson's demise from another heart attack sent shockwaves at the worksite and across the province and the dedication ceremony was quickly cancelled.[6]

On September 26, 1969, a year to the day after Johnson's death, the new Premier Jean-Jacques Bertrand accompanied by Johnson's widow and children, unveiled two plaques and officially dedicated the dam after his predecessor. Both plaques now sit side by side at the top of the complex.

Elections as party leader

He lost the 1962 election. He won the 1966 election and died in office in 1968.

See also


  1. "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French). National Assembly of Quebec.
  2. Montreal Gazette, January 12, 1953
  3. Extensive biography from Marianopolis College
  4. Eugene Griffin, Chicago Tribune, September 27, 1968, p. 3.
  5. Bolduc, André; Hogue, Clarence; Larouche, Daniel (1989), Hydro-Québec: l'héritage d'un siècle d'électricité (in French), Montreal: Libre-Expression, p. 206, ISBN 2-89111-388-8
  6. Bolduc, André (2000), Du génie au pouvoir : Robert A. Boyd, à la gouverne d'Hydro-Québec aux years glorieuses (in French), Montreal: Libre-Expression, pp. 99–100, ISBN 2-89111-829-4
Political offices
Preceded by
Antonio Talbot
Leader of the Opposition in Quebec
Succeeded by
Jean Lesage
Party political offices
Preceded by
Antonio Talbot (interim)
Leader of the Union Nationale
Succeeded by
Jean-Jacques Bertrand
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