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Daniel Johnson, Sr.

The Honourable
Daniel Johnson, Sr.
Francis Daniel Johnson
20th Premier of Quebec
In office
June 16, 1966 – September 26, 1968
Monarch Elizabeth II
Lieutenant Governor Hugues Lapointe
Preceded by Jean Lesage
Succeeded by Jean-Jacques Bertrand
MNA for Bagot
In office
December 18, 1946 – September 26, 1968
Preceded by Cyrille Dumaine
Succeeded by Jean-Guy Cardinal
Personal details
Born Francis Daniel Johnson, Sr.
(1915-04-09)April 9, 1915
Danville, Quebec, Canada
Died September 26, 1968(1968-09-26) (aged 53)
Political party Union Nationale
Spouse(s) Reine Gagné
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholic

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]


  • Background 1
  • Member of the legislature 2
  • Cabinet Member 3
  • Party Leader 4
  • Premier 5
    • Death 5.1
  • Elections as party leader 6
  • Footnotes 7
  • See also 8


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. 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.[2]

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.


Original dedication plaque — Manicouagan 5, 1968.
Dedication plaque of the Daniel Johnson Dam, unveiled by Johnson's successor, Jean-Jacques Bertrand on September 26, 1969.

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 1962–1963. Photographs taken at the banquet show the three men were in excellent spirits, holding hands and smiling,[3] 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.[4]

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 sudden demise sent shockwaves at the worksite and across the province and the dedication ceremony was quickly cancelled.[4]

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.


  1. ^ "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French).  
  2. ^ Extensive biography from Marianopolis College
  3. ^ Bolduc, André; Hogue, Clarence; Larouche, Daniel (1989), Hydro-Québec: l'héritage d'un siècle d'électricité (in French), Montreal: Libre-Expression, p. 206,  
  4. ^ a b 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,  

See also

National Assembly of Quebec
Preceded by
Cyrille Dumaine (Liberal)
MNA for Bagot
Succeeded by
Jean-Guy Cardinal (Union Nationale)
Political offices
Preceded by
Jean Lesage
Premier of Quebec
Succeeded by
Jean-Jacques Bertrand
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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