MONTREAL--Former Finance Minister Raymond Bachand is the first official candidate in the race to replace Jean Charest at the head of the Quebec Liberal Party.

Flanked by a number of sitting MNAs as he announced his candidacy on Friday morning, the architect of the Liberal’s controversial tuition hike and health tax said he was the best person to bring unity to the party.

“When we are strong we can do great things, and we have done great things as Quebecers,” said Bachand. "I'm the man who will help bring Quebec, in a unifying way, on the path to economic prosperity.

"My obsession is jobs."

The former HEC professor who took over as finance minister in 2009, could bring ideological spice to the Liberals, calling for the party to bring debate and big ideas back to Quebec.

Jean Charest was often criticized as non-ideological to a fault and had had few political passions other than stopping the sovereignty movement.

On Friday, Bachand tried to unify the party behind him, calling on Anglophone support.

"Some of you have come to question recently whether we take you for granted. Well I don't take you for granted. I think, as for every citizen of Quebec, we have to gain your trust every time," said Bachand.

"You are part of our history; you are part of our future. We are all Quebecers."

Former Culture Minister Christine St-Pierre, along with Guy Ouellette and Danielle St-Amand, said that Bachand is the best man to restore the Liberal Party to power.

Lise Theriault, who was labour minister in the Liberal cabinet, will chair Bachand's campaign.

“We are here today because we think that Raymond is the best leader for the Liberal Party,” said Theriault. “We know the man, not the politician, the man.”

Bachand is a lawyer with an MBA and a lengthy business history, including directing the Metro-Richelieu grocery chain and overseeing the FTQ's investment arm.

With the widow of former Liberal Premier Robert Bourassa in the audience, Bachand welcomed the upcoming leadership race. Former Transport Minister Pierre Moreau and former Health Minister Philippe Couillard are expected to announce they will be trying for the Liberal’ top job.

In recent polls, Couillard has been shown leading with 27 per cent of the public’s support, Bachand trails at 10 per cent.

“Obviously he doesn’t have the energy that draws the crowds to their feet, but Robert Bourassa didn’t command that energy either,” said political analyst Jean Lapierre.

Bachand could face some opposition in the party. In his 30s he was a prominent figure for the Yes side during the 1980 referendum. While Bachand has often repeated his full-fledged support for keeping Quebec within Canada, grassroots federalists could turn on the Outremont MNA.

With Jean-Marc Fournier acting as Liberal chief following Jean Charest's post-election defeat and resignation, a new leader will be chosen in February, a month before the PQ’s first March budget.

If higher taxes are in the budget, the PQ can’t count on Bachand’s vote.

--with files from The Canadian Press.