About Penny


Penny Collenette, a lawyer with extensive business and political experience, has become a well known policy commentator, writing in both the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. She has held two positions at the University of Ottawa. As Executive in Residence at the Telfer Management School, she has guest lectured on ethical and business issues relating to global, public and corporate governance. As Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Law, she has created two new law courses:  Whistleblowing: The Busy Intersection of Law and Ethics and A New International Corporate Reality: The Business of Human Rights. She was also a co-chair of a conference concerning a legal analysis of the right to water. The symposium was held October 14th, 2009 at UOttawa’s law faculty.

From 2002-2004, Penny was a Senior Fellow at the Center of Business and Government, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Using her extensive background in both the public and private sectors, she has authored several articles which can be found under Penny’s Pen. She has also been the recipient of an Opinion Leader invitation from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While in Japan, she met with business and public policy leaders and lectured at Keio University in Tokyo.


In the corporate world, Penny served for six years as a Director of Holt, Renfrew & Co. Limited, a high end retail fashion company in Canada. Previously, she has served as a director of the Toronto Board of Trade and as a founding Independent Trustee of the Movie Distribution Income Fund of Alliance Atlantis Communications, Inc. From 1998-2002, Penny was Vice President,Chairman’s office of George Weston Limited, a highly respected and well known Canadian company, which is headquartered in Toronto.


In addition to her years of volunteer work as a mentor and supporter of many organizations which support women, Penny has recently been elected as Vice Chair of the UN Association of Canada. Penny also sits on the National Council of Apathy is Boring, an association devoted to increasing the youth vote.

Previously, she has served on the National Committee for the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards; as a Director of Toronto Board of Trade; as a founding member of the Advisory Committee for The Eldercare Foundation of Ottawa; as a five time Co Chair of the successful “Evening in the Maritimes” dinner which raises money for Citizen Advocacy (an organization which supports individuals living with disability challenges), and as member of the advisory committee for Women on Boards, a program from Women and Communication.



  • 2014, Order of Ontario
  • 2012, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
  • 2010, Inducted into University of Ottawa’s Common Law Honour Society
  • 2008, The International Alliance of Women named her to their inaugural list of 100 women in the world who make a difference
  • 2005, the Women’s Executive Network list of Top 100 Powerful Women in Canada
  • 2002, Maclean’s magazine list of 50 most influential Canadians
  • 1993, Chatelaine magazine list of 50 most influential Women in Canada


In addition to academia and the private sector, Penny’s career has spanned the fields of human rights, political organization and government.  At 19, she became a political organizer for the Liberal Party of Canada during the Trudeau era. While the Rt. Hon. John Turner was leader, she served as Vice-Chair of the Human Rights Committee for Liberal International. Penny was Director of Volunteers for Jean Chretien’s leadership race in 1984 and Campaign Director in the successful 1990 bid. She worked as National Director and Director of Legal Services for the Liberal Party of Canada for the 1993 election.  She was subsequently named Director of Appointments in the Prime Minister’s office, a position she held for over 4 years.  Of the 2,554 appointments made during this time, nearly 39% of these appointments were women; a major increase from previous government statistics. In 2008, Penny was a federal candidate in the riding of Ottawa Centre.

Penny has always maintained her love for education.  In addition to holding her B.A. in Law and Political Science from Carleton University, she entered law school at the age of 37. Upon completing her law degree from the University of Ottawa, she articled with the Ottawa law firm of Perley-Robertson, Hill and McDougall. She was called to the Ontario Bar in 1993 and is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Penny is married to the Honourable David Collenette.  The Collenettes have one son, Christopher, a graduate of Trinity Law, Ireland. Chris is married to Dr. Rachel O’Farrell and the couple have two children, Charley and Cate.