Derek Burney

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Derek Burney

Derek Burney in 1981
Derek Burney pictured in 1981
Canadian Ambassador to the United States
In office
Prime MinisterBrian Mulroney
Preceded byAllan Gotlieb
Succeeded byJohn de Chastelain
1st Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
In office
Prime MinisterBrian Mulroney
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byStanley Hartt
Personal details
Fort William, Ontario, Canada
Political partyProgressive Conservative
RelativesDerek Jr. (son)
Alma materQueen's University (BA, 1962; MA, 1964)

Derek Hudson Burney, OC (born 1939) for a time served as Canada's ambassador to the US, and was political strategist for both the government of Brian Mulroney and of Stephen Harper. He was for a time an executive or director in private industry. He is now Chancellor of Lakehead University.

Early life

Burney was born in Fort William, Ontario (now known as Thunder Bay) to George William Burney (1886–1951) of Westville, Nova Scotia, and Annie Mary MacKay (1906–1995), who was born in Durban, South Africa but grew up on the Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Hebrides.[1]

Burney attended Fort William Collegiate Institute. He then went on to study at Queen's University, where he received his B.A. degree in 1962, followed by his M.A. degree in 1964.[citation needed]


In the civil service

Upon graduation, Burney entered the federal public service and the Canadian diplomatic corps, subsequently serving in Japan and, as Ambassador, in Korea. From 1987 to 1989 he served as Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.[citation needed]

After leaving the post of Chief of Staff in 1989, Burney became Canada's Ambassador to the United States. He would serve in this position until 1993.[2]

In private industry

Burney was then hired by Bell Canada and worked as Chairman and CEO of Bell Canada International Inc. from 1993 to 1999.[3] He then moved to CAE Inc., serving as President and CEO until 2004. The boards of directors on which Burney has sat or now sits include CanWest Global Communications (which went bankrupt), Quebecor World Inc., Shell Canada and TransCanada Corp.. He is currently the president of the board of New Brunswick Power and serves on the advisory board of Paradigm Capital.[citation needed]

On January 24, 2006, newly elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Burney would play a key role in the transfer of power from Paul Martin's Liberals to Harper's Conservatives.

As an academic

Burney now teaches at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.[citation needed]

On January 24, 2013, Lakehead University announced that Burney would become its 8th Chancellor. Burney served as chancellor of Lakehead University until 2017.[4]

Later life

In later life, Burney polished his talents writing in the national media. On 6 May 2020, he asked for a "full post-mortem" and specifically asked about the state of readiness of Canada before the pandemic began. He wanted to know whether the Chinese government concealed evidence of the outbreak in late 2019, and suggested an investigation of whether the WHO was complicit. He worried about the insolvency that waits next to the subsidy, and used a nice turn of phrase: "more people riding in the wagon than pulling it".[5] On 14 May, he castigated the Trudeau government over its conduct of relations with China: "The litany of apologies and obsequiousness by Canada is one that only a lickspittle would salute."[6]


Burney's son Derek Burney Jr. was the president of Corel Corporation for several years and now works for Microsoft.


Burney was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1993, and has been conferred honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Lakehead University, Queen's University, Carleton University, and Wilfrid Laurier University.

Burney has a street named after him in his home town of Thunder Bay. Derek Burney Drive is home to the Confederation College Aviation Centre of Excellence, Ornge hangar and Levaero Aviation.


  1. ^ [Burney, Derek. Getting It Done: A Memoir. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2005, pp. 3-7. ISBN 0-7735-2926-8.
  2. ^ Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada Complete List of Posts
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2015-08-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "LU names Lyn McLeod its new chancellor". The Chronicle Journal. March 8, 2017. Retrieved March 31, 2017.
  5. ^ Burney, Derek H. (6 May 2020). "Derek H. Burney on COVID-19: Canada must begin the march to recovery soon". National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.
  6. ^ Burney, Derek. "Derek H. Burney on COVID-19: It's hard for Canada to stand up to China while it's bowing". National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.