He was born on December 24, 1944, son of Daniel Johnson, a lawyer, and Reine Gagné.
Holder of an MBA from the Harvard Business School, he also received a doctorate in law from the University of London (England). He practised as a lawyer after graduation and eventually moved into the business world where he served as a corporate secretary and then as a Vice-President of Power Corporation Canada.
First elected to the National Assembly in 1981 as M.N.A for Vaudreuil-Soulanges, and reelected in 1985, and in Vaudreuil in 1989 and 1994, Daniel Johnson served in various Cabinet positions in the Bourassa government, including a stint as Chairman of the Treasury Board. Upon Robert Bourassa’s resignation for health reasons in 1993, Daniel Johnson was elected party leader. As Premier, he introduced several cost-cutting measures and privatization with a view to bringing public finances into line. He served as Leader of the No forces during Quebec’s second referendum on sovereignty on October 25 1995, and led them to victory.
He left politics in May 1998 and returned to law with the firm of McCarthy Tétrault.