Hon. David Collenette, P.C., B.A. (Hons),M.A., L.L.D. (Hons), F.C.I.L.T.
David Collenette served as a Member of the Canadian House of Commons for more than 20 years and in the cabinet led by three Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau, John
Turner and Jean Chretien for a period of eleven years. He held several portfolios: Minister of State-Multiculturalism; Minister of National Defense; Minister of Veterans Affairs; Minister of Transport and Minister of Crown Corporations. He did not seek re-election in 2004.
During the constitutional debates of the early 1980′s, Mr. Collenette, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, was assigned by the government to Westminster to represent Canada’s interests in discussions with the British government and members of the House of Commons and House of Lords.
As Minister of National Defense, Mr. Collenette oversaw the reorganization, restructuring and reengineering of the department as the government confronted the severe financial deficit and was the author of the highly regarded 1994 Defence White Paper. During this period, the Canadian Forces were involved in challenging assignments in the Balkans, Rwanda and Haiti, as well as confronting the troubling issues relating to the earlier deployment to Somalia.
As Transport Minister, Mr. Collenette, was proud to have authored a major policy document, Straight Ahead, which charted a course for Canadian transportation policy over the next decade. In addition, he was able to initiate several legislative changes, including the Canada Marine Act and amendments to the Competition Act to deal with the restructuring of the Canadian airline industry.
Perhaps the most challenging period of his career was overseeing Canada’s response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the subsequent issues related to transportation security. On Mr. Collenette’s direction, the skies over Canada and the Canadian administered portion of the Atlantic Ocean were closed to all commercial and private air traffic. In the space of a few hours, 226 wide-bodied jets were ordered to land at Canadian airports, mainly in the less populated areas of the east coast. In the
following days, weeks and months as Vice-Chair of the cabinet Committee on Security he worked with his colleague, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, the FAA, the U.S. Coast Guard and the newly created Department of Homeland Security to revise transportation security policies and regulations.
As Regional Minister for the Greater Toronto Area, Mr. Collenette, in 2000-2003, 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 infrastructure funding for $1 billion towards major GO Transit improvements, including the reopening of the 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 for the project was implemented. The highly successful link was subsequently built by Metrolinx and opened in 2016.
In the private sector, Mr. Collenette has worked in the life insurance, plastics, executive recruitment fields and, since retiring from Parliament in 2004. as an adviser to many Canadian and US companies in the transportation and defense industries. In addition, he acted as adviser to GO Transit (Metrolinx) and L’Agence metropolitaine de transports, where he was chief negotiator for the agency with Canadian Pacific Railway, 2008-2012.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and Master of Arts in political science, in addition to an Honourary Doctorate (LL.D.) from York University, Toronto. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (F.C.I.L.T.). He served as Chancellor of the Royal Military College of Canada (1993-96); as a member of the International Advisory Council, Institute of International Studies, Stanford University, California (1999-2005); as Distinguished Fellow, Glendon College, York University (2004-2010); and as Distinguished Fellow, Ryerson University (2012-2013). In 2020 he was named as Senior
Fellow of the Bill Graham Centre, Trinity College, University of Toronto.
From 1987-1991, while in the private sector, Mr. Collenette also worked in a volunteer capacity for the National Democratic Institute, Washington, D.C. He was involved in democratic development projects and election monitoring in Haiti, Chile, Romania, and the Czech Republic. Upon leaving elected politics in 2004 he resumed his association with NDI and served as Co-Leader of its observer mission to the Ukrainian presidential run-off election on November 21st, 2004, as Co-Leader of the parliamentary election’s assessment mission for Pakistan in May 2007 and Co-Leader of the municipal elections assessment mission for Ukraine in October 2010.
Currently Mr. Collenette is Chair of the NATO Association of Canada, an organization dedicated to the promotion of peace, prosperity and security through knowledge and understanding of the importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He is past Chair and current Director of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (North America), former Vice-President, CILT International, the world’s premier logistics and transport association with more than 30,000 members. Mr. Collenette is also Vice-President, Secretary and Director of Harbourfront Corporation (Toronto); a past member of the Toronto East General (now Michael Garron) Hospital Foundation Campaign Executive Team; and is a member of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs Advisory Committee. He is Vice-President, Sir Winston Churchill Society, Ottawa.
In 2007 he served as Chair of the Mayor of Ottawa’s Task Force on Transportation which produced a landmark report, Moving Ottawa whose key recommendations have been adopted with the building of the new light rail system in the nation’s capital. He served as Special Advisor on High-Speed Rail to the Government of Ontario, 2015-18 issuing a report, High Speed Rail in Ontario. He is an Honourary member of the Canadian Ferry Association.
Mr. Collenette is also associated with Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Canada, part of the world’s largest public relations, public affairs, and communications company, WPP, based in the UK, where he is Senior Counsellor.
Mr. Collenette is bilingual (English and French).