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David Michael Collenette, PC (born June 24, 1946) was a Canadianmarker politician representing the Liberal Party of Canada from 1974 to 2004. Graduate from York Universitymarker's Glendon College in 1969 (he subsequently received his MA from the same university in 2004, Collenette was first elected in the York East riding of Torontomarker to the House of Commons on July 8, 1974 under the Pierre Elliott Trudeau government.

He was defeated twice in his career, once in the Tories' upset victory under Joe Clark in 1979 and again in Brian Mulroney's first election in 1984. He returned to politics nine years later and entered the Jean Chrétien cabinet. He served as Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of National Defence.

Somalia affair and resignation

As Minister of National Defence, 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.

Interviewed by CTV, Collenette sought to correct those who suggested that he was strongly supporting General Jean Boyle who was fighting to save his career amidst allegations he oversaw the alteration of documents. This gave commentators the view that Collenette was distancing himself, to avoid being caught in the undertow of the scandal and survive with his political office intact. As Commissioner Peter Desbarats later summarised, it indicated "he perhaps has already decided to sacrifice Boyle in order to protect himself".

An access to information request revealed Collenette broke ethical guidelines by writing a 1995 letter to the Immigration and Refugee Board on behalf of a constituent. Collenette cited this violation as his official reason for resigning from cabinet in October 1996 but his resignation also served to remove Collenette from the ongoing Somalia Affair controversy, while leaving him with only a minor taint that would allow his future return to politics.

Return to politics

After a few months on the back benches, he was re-admitted to Cabinet as Minister of Transport. In this portfolio his most important decisions were those that led to the merging of Canadian Airlines and Air Canada. 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 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 Airportmarker in Newfoundland and Labrador. There, he helped Chrétien unveil a plaque, commemorating the acts of kindness seen for the diverted passengers not just in Gandermarker, but across the country.

Collenette was one of Jean Chrétien's staunchest cabinet loyalists, and was not included in successor Paul Martin's cabinet announced in December 2003. On January 29, 2004, Collenette announced his retirement from politics and went on to work in the private sector. He is now a teaching fellow at York University's Glendon College.

Ottawa politics

On January 19, 2007, Ottawamarker 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 Quebecmarker. His report also suggested one to two new interprovincial bridge crossings between Gatineaumarker and Ottawa over the next 30 years.

His wife, Penny Collenette was selected to be the Liberal candidate in the riding of Ottawa Centre for the 40th Canadian federal election.


  1. 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]

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