Knutson holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, and a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree from the University of Windsor. He attended high school at the Jesuit-run Brebeuf College School in Toronto.
In the 1993 federal election, he was elected to the Canadian House of Commons as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Elgin-Norfolk riding as a candidate representing the Liberal Party. He was re-elected in the 1997 and 2000 elections to the reorganised riding of Elgin-Middlesex-London.
He was Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien from 2000 to 2002. In 2002, he was named Secretary of State for Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and served as Minister of State for International Trade from 2003 to 2004. He was defeated by the Conservative candidate Joe Preston in the 2004 election. Shortly afterwards, Knutson joined Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Canada's largest law firm, practicing in the area of government relations and public policy.