MONTREAL - The leader of a new Quebec political party says the province has to get angrier in defending its positions in Ottawa.

Former cabinet minister Francois Legault is the head of the Coalition Avenir Quebec -- a party that's leading recent polls.

At the opening Monday of his party's new Montreal office, Legault said Premier Jean Charest and his cabinet ministers should make more trips to Ottawa to fight the Harper government on key concerns for Quebecers.

He said the values of Quebecers on such issues as the omnibus crime bill and the federal gun registry differ greatly from those of the Conservative agenda.

"We need to have a government that's a little bit more active, a little bit angrier with these decisions with the federal government," Legault said.

"Mr. Charest has a responsibility as a premier, who represents the interests of Quebecers, to make Ottawa understand our point of view."

Quebec's justice minister has, in fact, made two trips to Ottawa in recent weeks to denounce the crime Bill C-10 and was scathing in his criticism of the Harper government.

In his latest trip, Jean-Marc Fournier said he couldn't recognize the Government of Canada anymore and felt like the Harper Tories were governing for the old Reform party instead. Those protestations have had little sway on the federal Tories.

But up until now, Charest has failed to represent the opinions of Quebecers on Parliament Hill, Legault said.

Legault, a former member of the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois, also said Quebec must put the independence debate on ice. He says the province's focus should be building its economy.