Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
David Michael Collenette (born June 24 1946 in London) was a Canadian politician representing the Liberal Party of Canada from 1974 to 2004. Collenette was first elected in the York East riding of Toronto 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 first was Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of National Defence. During this period he was at the centre of the controversy over the Somalia Affair, and was especially challenged on the government's decision to curtail the inquiry into the affair. Because of this, and another incident where he intervened with a judge on behalf of a constituent, he resigned from Cabinet.
After only a few months on the back benches he returned to Cabinet as Minister of Transport. In this portfolio his most important decisions were those that lead 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 imposed 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 attacks, 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, Chretien, U.S. Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci, and other provicial 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 Chretien unveil a plaque, commemmorating the acts of kindness seen for the diverted passengers not just in Gander, but across the country.
Collenette was one of Jean Chrétien's staunchest loyalists in cabinet and he was not expected to have a future in politics under new Liberal leader Paul Martin. He was not appointed to Martin's cabinet announced in December 2003, and on January 29, 2004, he announced his retirement from politics. He is expected to accept a position in the private sector.
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