David Michael Collenette
Minister of Transport
In office
June 11, 1997 – December 11, 2003
Prime MinisterJean Chretien
Preceded byDavid Anderson
Succeeded byTony Valeri
Minister of National Defence
In office
November 4, 1993 – October 4, 1996
Prime MinisterJean Chretien
Preceded byTom Siddon
Succeeded byDoug Young
Minister of Veterans Affairs
In office
November 4, 1993 – October 4, 1996
Prime MinisterJean Chretien
Preceded byPeter McCreath
Succeeded byDoug Young
Member of Parliament
for Don Valley East
In office
October 25, 1993 – June 28, 2004
Preceded byAlan Redway
Succeeded byYasmin Ratansi
Member of Parliament
for York East
In office
February 18, 1980 – September 4, 1984
Preceded byRon Ritchie
Succeeded byAlan Redway
In office
July 8, 1974 – May 22, 1979
Preceded byIan Arrol
Succeeded byRon Ritchie
Personal details
Born (1946-06-24) June 24, 1946 (age 75)
London, England, UK
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Penny Collenette
Residence(s)Toronto, Ontario, Canada
EducationGlendon College, York (BA, MA)
ProfessionBusiness Advisor

David Michael Collenette, PC (born June 24, 1946) is a former Canadian politician. From 1974, until his retirement from politics in 2004, he was a member of the Liberal Party of Canada. A graduate from York University's Glendon College in 1969, he subsequently received his MA, in 2004 and LL.D in 2015 from the same university. 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 and returned to Parliament in 1993 representing Don Valley East.

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:

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.

He served as Chair of the House of Commons Special Energy Committee in 1982–83 dealing with legislation for the national energy program (NEP).


Collenette was one of only three cabinet members to endorse Jean Chrétien in the 1984 Liberal Party of Canada leadership election, along with Charles Caccia and Roméo LeBlanc.[1]

He also supported Chretien in the 1990 leadership campaign.

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 establishment of a public inquiry into the Somalia Affair investigating war crimes committed by Canadian Soldiers during deployment in 1992 by the Mulroney Progressive Conservatives. The Chretien government later decided to curtail the inquiry.

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.[2] 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.[2][3]

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.[citation needed] 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. 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[citation needed]. 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.

Regional Minister Responsible for the Greater Toronto Area

As regional Minister for the Greater Toronto Area 1997-2003, Mr. Collenette oversaw federal infrastructure funding that resulted in the largest single expansion of cultural institutions in Canadian history at the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the National Ballet School, the Royal Conservatory of Music, the Roy Thompson Hall and the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art. He also initiated the second tranche of GTA infrastructure funding for $1 billion towards major GO Transit improvements, including the reopening of CN Bradford to Barrie line. Mr. Collenette promoted the concept of a rail link between Pearson Airport and downtown Toronto and under his leadership, planning, acquisition of property and a Solicitation of Interest the project was implemented. The highly successful link was subsequently built by Metrolinx and opened in 2016.

Collenette also designated the Oak Ridges Moraine portion of the Pickering Airport lands administered by Transport Canada, as open greenspace in perpetuity. These lands eventually became part of the Rouge National Urban Park, opened in 2015.

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 also is a past member of the board at Toronto East General Hospital Foundation Campaign Executive Team and of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs. Collenette is also Senior Counsel with Hill & Knowlton Canada, a public relations and communications firm.

City of Ottawa Transportation Task Force Committee

On January 19, 2007, Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien named Collenette as the head of a volunteer 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, including an east-west route in a downtown tunnel, and several communities in Eastern Ontario as well as portions of the Outaouais region in Western Quebec. The Ottawa LRT opened in 2019. His report also suggested one to two new interprovincial bridge crossings between Gatineau and Ottawa over the next 30 years.[4][5]

Ottawa Centre

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.

Province of Ontario Special Advisor, High-Speed Rail

David Collenette served as the Government of Ontario Special Advisor for High-Speed Rail in the Windsor - Toronto corridor, from 2015-2018.[6]

Electoral record

2000 Canadian federal election: Don Valley East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal David Collenette 25,915 66.6 +11.5
Progressive Conservative Cecila Fusco 5,645 14.5 -7.6
Alliance Kasra Nejatian 4,736 12.2 -1.1
New Democratic Ron Casey Nestor 2,249 5.8 -1.9
Independent Ryan Kidd 212 0.5
Marxist–Leninist Judith Snow 153 0.4
Total valid votes 38,910 100.0

Note: Canadian Alliance vote is compared to the Reform vote in 1997 election.

1997 Canadian federal election: Don Valley East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal David Collenette 21,511 55.1 +1.0
Progressive Conservative Denzil Minnan-Wong 8,610 22.1 -1.3
Reform John Pope 5,167 13.2 -4.1
New Democratic Shodja Ziaian 2,981 7.6 +3.8
Canadian Action Joe Braini 384 1.0
Natural Law Mark Roy 192 0.5 0.0
Independent Mariam Abou-Dib 170 0.4
Total valid votes 39,015 100.0
1993 Canadian federal election: Don Valley East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal David Collenette 21,511 54.1 +16.2
Progressive Conservative Alan Redway 9,279 23.3 -21.4
Reform Gordon E. Honsey 6,877 17.3
New Democratic Janice Waud Loper 1,538 3.9 -11.2
Libertarian Mark Meschino 238 0.6 -0.7
Natural Law Fred Fredeen 205 0.5
Marxist–Leninist Roger Carter 90 0.2
Abolitionist Michael Mazerolle 22 0.1
Total valid votes 39,760 100.0


  1. ^ Jeffrey, Brooke. (2010). Divided loyalties : the Liberal Party of Canada, 1984-2008. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-4426-6018-2. OCLC 762397337.
  2. ^ a b Desbarats, Peter. "Somalia cover-up: A commissioner's journal", 1997.
  3. ^ Collenette Resigns Defence Post. Canadian Encyclopedia. Last Accessed March 4, 2015. [1]
  4. ^ David Collenette to head Ottawa mayor's transportation task force. CBC News. January 19, 2007. [2]
  5. ^ Moving Ottawa: The New Transportation System. City of Ottawa. Last Access April 10, 2009. [3]
  6. ^ "Special Advisor, High Speed Rail". 5 December 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2015.