Quebec's federal party appoints new premier

A NEW leader for Quebec's only federalist party was named this week, putting the responsibility for holding off a separatist tide into the hands of Daniel Johnson, a cautious, business-oriented member of the Robert Bourassa's provisional cabinet who has demonstrated little political flare during his 12 years as member of the provincial parliament.

Mr Johnson, a 44-year-old lawyer and businessman, was the only candidate in the process to choose a new leader for the Quebec Liberal Party, who automatically succeeds Mr Bourassa as provincial premier. Mr Bourassa, who has been battling against skin cancer, decided his health would not permit him to fight the next election which must be called before next August.

Although the Johnson name is prominent in Quebec politics - his father was premier of the province in the 1960s and his brother was briefly the leader of the Parti Quebecois and premier following the death of its founder, Rene Levesque - the new Liberal leader is seen more as a manager than as a politician.

Mr Johnson inherits a dispirited and beleaguered government. It has been trailing the separatist-oriented Parti Quebecois by a wide margin in the polls and many of Mr Bourassa's senior ministers have announced they will step down with him.

The situation facing the Quebec Liberals is parallel to that facing the federal Conservative Party when the former prime minister Brian Mulroney quit earlier this year, and two-thirds of his ministers chose not to run in the recent election. But the Quebec political landscape is even more cluttered than the federal scene. As Mr Johnson's leadership became official on Wednesday, a breakaway group of Liberals announced the formation of Parti Action Quebec.

Led by Jean Allaire, who had been Mr Bourassa's constitutional advisor until he quit the Liberals in protest at the premier's approach to last year's constitutional negotiations, the new party will seek support for a compromise between the Parti Quebecois' hardline separatism and the Liberals' federalism under Mr Bourassa, an approach Mr Johnson has promised to make explicit.

Mr Allaire's new group is promoting Quebec sovereignty within a looser economic federation similar to the European Union. The new party has both Liberal and Parti Quebecois supporters worried, since opinion polls suggest there is up to 30 per cent support for the middle option and no one is certain which party will be hurt most.

The Parti Quebecois is counting on a two-step process to lead Quebec out of the federation. The first would be winning the coming election, then a referendum.

Adding to the uncertainty is what role the Bloc Quebecois, now the official opposition in the national parliament, will play. The Bloc leader, Lucien Bouchard, has promised to defend Quebec's interests within the national government. Mr Bouchard, a more charismatic presence than Jacques Parizeau, the Parti Quebecois leader, is eyeing a role for Quebec, as differentiated from Ottawa, in the longer term.

Mr Johnson's best hope for hanging on to power is Mr Parizeau's personal unpopularity, while the separatists might have to wait until they can replace Mr Parizeau with Mr Bouchard to further their goal.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before