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David Michael Collenette
Member of Parliament
for Don Valley East

In office
Preceded by Alan Redway
Succeeded by Yasmin Ratansi
Member of Parliament
for York East (2nd time)

In office
Preceded by Ron Ritchie
Succeeded by Alan Redway
Member of Parliament
for York East (1st time)

In office
Preceded by Ian Arrol
Succeeded by Ron Ritchie
Personal details
Born June 24, 1946(1946-06-24) (age 76)
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Penny Collenette
Profession Civil servant

David Michael Collenette, PC (born June 24, 1946) was a Canadian politician from 1974 to 2004, and a member of the Liberal Party of Canada. A graduate from York University's Glendon College in 1969, he subsequently received his Master of Arts from in 2004. He was first elected in the York East riding of Toronto to the House of Commons on July 8, 1974, in the Pierre Trudeau government.

Collenette served as a Member of the Canadian House of Commons for more than 20 years. He was elected five times and defeated twice. He served in the Cabinet under three prime ministers - Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Jean Chrétien. He held several portfolios:

  • Minister of State-Multiculturalism (1983–84);
  • Minister of National Defense (1993–96);
  • Minister of Veterans Affairs (1993–96);
  • Minister of Transport (1997–2003) and
  • Minister of Crown Corporations (2002–03).

During the constitutional debates of the early 1980s, he served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House leader and was assigned by the government to Westminster to represent Canada's interests.

Minister of National Defence

As Minister of Defence Collenette oversaw the reorganization, restructuring and re-engineering of the department as part of the federal government's deficit cutting. During this time the Canadian Forces were involved in challenging assignments in the Balkans, Haiti and Somalia.

During his tenure, Collenette was at the centre of the controversy over the Somalia Affair. He was especially challenged on the government's decision to curtail the inquiry into the affair. During an interview on CTV Television, Collenette sought to correct those who suggested that he supported General Jean Boyle who was fighting to save his career amidst allegations he oversaw the alteration of documents. As Commissioner Peter Desbarats later summarised, he indicated "{Collenette} perhaps has already decided to sacrifice Boyle in order to protect himself".[1]

In October 1996, Collenette resigned from cabinet citing a letter that he had written on behalf of a constituent. An access to information request revealed Collenette broke ethical guidelines by writing the letter to the Immigration and Refugee Board.[1] Collenette cited this violation as his official reason for resigning from cabinet but his resignation also served to remove him from the ongoing Somalia Affair controversy.[1][2]

Minister of Transport

After a few months on the back benches, he was re-admitted to Cabinet in July 1997 and was appointed Minister of Transport. In this portfolio his most important decisions were those that led to the merging of Canadian Airlines and Air Canada, the divestment of CN Rail operations in Northern Manitoba to the favour of OmniTRAX, and the pseudo-commercialisation of Port Authorities under the Canada Marine Act.

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He also successfully argued in the late 1990s for the first substantial increase in funding for Via Rail since cuts in 1981, 1990 and 1994. 

On September 11, 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) closed down U.S. airspace after a series of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. After the FAA closed down U.S. airspace, Collenette acted swiftly and shut down Canadian airspace in order to take in diverted U.S.-bound international flights, launching Transport Canada's Operation Yellow Ribbon. Ultimately, 255 flights carrying 44,519 passengers were diverted to 15 Canadian airports. In the time that has followed, Collenette has applauded the way Canadians responded to the crisis. He, Chrétien, U.S. Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci, and other provincial and local officials presided over Canada's memorial service to mark the first anniversary of 9/11 at Gander International Airport in Newfoundland and Labrador. There, he helped Chrétien unveil a plaque, commemorating the acts of kindness seen for the diverted passengers not just in Gander, but across the country.

On January 29, 2004, Collenette announced his retirement from politics and went on to work in academia and as a consultant in the private sector. He is a member of the board of directors of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (North America) and of Harbourfront Corporation in Toronto. He is also a member of the board at Toronto East General Hospital, the Foundation Campaign Executive Team and of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs. Mr. Collenette is also a Senior Counselor with Hill & Knowlton Canada, a public relations firm.

Ottawa politics

On January 19, 2007, Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien named Collenette as the head of a Transportation Task Force Committee in which in a six-month period it reviewed the transportation issues across the city. It produced a report which suggested light-rail service expansion throughout the city of Ottawa and several communities in Eastern Ontario as well as portions of the Outaouais region in Western Quebec. His report also suggested one to two new interprovincial bridge crossings between Gatineau and Ottawa over the next 30 years.[3][4]

His wife, Penny Collenette was selected to be the Liberal candidate in the riding of Ottawa Centre for the 40th Canadian federal election and lost to incumbent NDP MP Paul Dewar.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Desbarats, Peter. "Somalia cover-up: A commissioner's journal", 1997.
  2. Collenette Resigns Defence Post. Canadian Encyclopedia. Last Accessed April 10, 2009. [1]
  3. David Collenette to head Ottawa mayor's transportation task force. CBC News. January 19, 2007. [2]
  4. Moving Ottawa: The New Transportation System. City of Ottawa. Last Access April 10, 2009. [3]

External links

Cabinet Post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
cont'd from 22nd Min. Minister of State (Multiculturalism)
Cabinet Post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
' Minister of State (Multiculturalism)
cont'd into 23rd Min.

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