Hon. David Collenette, P.C., B.A. (Hons),M.A., L.L.D. (Hons), F.C.I.L.T.
Since retiring from elected office in 2004, Mr. Collenette has acted as a strategic counsel for a number of organizations in the public affairs, transportation & infrastructure, defence & security and information technology sectors.
He is Senior Counsel, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Senior Advisor, Intergraph Corporation, a member of the Parsons Brinkerhoff Advisory Board, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (North America), Vice-President CILT International and a Director of the Harbourfront Corporation. Mr. Collenette is also a member of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs Advisory Committee at York University and the Toronto East General Hospital Foundation Campaign Executive Team.
Mr. Collenette served as a Member of the Canadian House of Commons for more than 20 years, having been elected in the general elections of 1974, 1980, 1993, 1997 and 2000. He served in the Cabinet under three Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Jean Chretien, holding a number of portfolios including: Minister of State-Multiculturalism (1983-84); Minister of National Defence (1993-96); Minister of Veterans Affairs (1993-96); Minister of Transport (1997-2003) and Minister of Crown Corporations (2002-03). He did not seek re-election in 2004.
As Minister of National Defence, Mr. Collenette oversaw the reorganization, restructuring and reengineering of the department as the government confronted the severe financial deficit. During this period, the Canadian Forces were involved in challenging assignments in the Balkans 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 a number of legislative changes, including the Canada Marine Act as well as 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 with 33,000 people aboard landed at Canadian airports, mainly in the less populated areas of the east coast. The coordination of this effort in the air and on the ground proved to be an immense challenge to Mr. Collenette and the public servants working under his direction. In the following days, weeks and months 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.
In the last two years he served in Cabinet, Mr.Collenette was also responsible for 10 Crown Corporations, including Canada Post, which ranked number 30 in size among Canada’s private and public companies; VIA Rail, the national passenger rail corporation; Marine Atlantic, a constitutionally mandated service operating four passenger car/truck/ferries between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland; and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, established post 9-11, to implement passenger and non-passenger screening at Canadian airports. He represented the shareholder in discussions with the relevant Boards of Directors and approved annual corporate plans as well as substantive structural transactions such as acquisitions, divestitures, and tariff increases.
In 2007, Mr. Collenette served as the Chair of the Mayor of Ottawa’s Transportation Task Force which recommended the building of a light rail network across the national capital with the downtown portion in a tunnel. This LRT project is now under construction.
In the private sector, Mr. Collenette has worked in the life insurance, plastics and executive recruitment fields. 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. Since leaving elected politics in 2004 he has 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 elections assessment mission for Pakistan in May 2007 and as Co-Leader of the parliamentary elections assessment mission for Ukraine in 2010.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and Master of Arts in political science and an Honourary Doctorate of Laws from York University, Toronto and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport. 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) and as Distinguished Fellow, Glendon College, York University (2004-2009).
Mr. Collenette is bilingual (English and French).
He is married to Penny (Hossack) Collenette, a lawyer, who has served as Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister; as Vice-President, Chairman’s Office, George Weston Ltd; and as Senior Fellow at the Centre for Business and Government, Kennedy School, Harvard University, Massachusetts. Currently she is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa.
David and Penny have one son, Christopher, a graduate of Carleton University and Trinity College Dublin Law School. Christopher is married to Dr. Rachel O’Farrell, and the couple have two children, Charles and Cate Collenette.