Rob Nicholson

Robert Douglas "Rob" Nicholson PC QC (born April 29, 1952) is a Canadian politician who represented the riding of Niagara Falls in the House of Commons of Canada from 2004 to 2019 as a member of the Conservative Party. Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he served as Minister of National Defence, Minister of Justice, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. When the Harper Government ended, he was appointed Justice Critic in the Official Opposition shadow cabinet.

Robert Nicholson

Nicholson in 2014
Official Opposition Critic for Justice
Assumed office
November 20, 2015
LeaderRona Ambrose
Andrew Scheer
Preceded byFrançoise Boivin
11th Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
February 9, 2015  November 4, 2015
Prime MinisterStephen Harper
Preceded byEd Fast (Acting)
Succeeded byStéphane Dion
40th Minister of National Defence
In office
July 15, 2013  February 9, 2015
Prime MinisterStephen Harper
Preceded byPeter MacKay
Succeeded byJason Kenney
49th Minister of Justice
Attorney General of Canada
In office
January 4, 2007  July 15, 2013
Prime MinisterStephen Harper
Preceded byVic Toews
Succeeded byPeter MacKay
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
In office
February 6, 2006  January 4, 2007
Prime MinisterStephen Harper
Preceded byTony Valeri
Succeeded byPeter Van Loan
Minister responsible for Democratic Reform
In office
February 6, 2006  January 4, 2007
Prime MinisterStephen Harper
Preceded byBelinda Stronach (Democratic Renewal)
Succeeded byPeter Van Loan
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Niagara Falls
In office
June 28, 2004  October 21, 2019
Preceded byGary Pillitteri
Succeeded byTony Baldinelli
In office
September 4, 1984  October 25, 1993
Preceded byAl MacBain
Succeeded byGary Pillitteri
Personal details
Robert Douglas Nicholson

(1952-04-29) April 29, 1952
Niagara Falls, Canada
Political partyProgressive Conservative (Before 2003)
Conservative (2003–present)
Spouse(s)Arlene Nicholson
Alma materQueen's University
University of Windsor

Early life

Nicholson was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario.[1] He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Queen's University and a law degree from the University of Windsor. Nicholson practised law before entering politics, and is a member of the Law Society of Ontario.[1]

Political career

First terms in the House of Commons (1984–1993)

Nicholson was first elected to federal parliament in the federal election of 1984 as a Progressive Conservative, defeating New Democrat Richard Harrington and incumbent Liberal Al MacBain. He was re-elected by a narrower margin in the 1988 election, defeating Liberal Gary Pillitteri by fewer than 2,000 votes.

During the 33rd Canadian Parliament, he served on the standing committees responsible for justice (vice-chairman), foreign affairs, national defence and transport. Nicholson also served on the special committee on child care.[2]

During the 34th Canadian Parliament, he continued to serve on the justice committee and was also named a parliamentary secretary, supporting the Government House Leader (1989-1990) and the Attorney General of Canada (1989-1993) in Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney's government.

Following Kim Campbell's appointment as prime minister, Nicholson joined the cabinet as Minister for Science and Minister responsible for Small Business.[3]

As with all of his caucus colleagues, save for Jean Charest and Elsie Wayne, he was defeated in the 1993 election, finishing third behind Pillitteri and Mel Grunstein of the Reform Party.

Municipal politics

Nicholson was elected as a trustee for the Niagara Catholic District School Board in 1994. He was elected to the Niagara Regional Council later in 1997, and was re-elected in 2000, and 2003.[2] He ran for Chairman of the Regional Municipality of Niagara in late 2003, but lost to St. Catharines Regional Councillor Peter Partington.

He attempted to regain his old Commons seat in the 1997 election, but again finished third. He did not seek election to the Commons in the 2000 election.

Return to the House of Commons (2004-2019)

The Progressive Conservatives merged with the Canadian Alliance as the Conservative Party of Canada in early 2004, and Nicholson joined the new party. He was narrowly returned to parliament in the 2004 election, defeating Liberal Victor Pietrangelo by more than 1,000 votes.

Nicholson served as Shadow Transportation Critic from July 2004 to January 2005. He was appointed Chief Opposition Whip on January 28, 2005.[2]

During the 38th Canadian Parliament, he was one of only two members of the 99-member Conservative caucus in the Commons who had previously served in the federal cabinet.

Harper government

He was re-elected in the 2006 election and appointed to the Harper cabinet as Government House Leader.[1]

Nicholson was appointed as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada in early 2007. He replaced Vic Toews as Justice Minister during a Cabinet shuffle on January 4, 2007. Peter Van Loan replaced Nicholson as Government House Leader.

In the July 15, 2013 cabinet shuffle, Nicholson switched portfolios with Peter Mackay and became the Minister of Defence.[4]

Canadian Afghan detainee issue

On March 13, 2010, Nicholson released the terms of reference for the appointment of Frank Iacobucci as an Independent Adviser. Iacobucci will conduct an independent review of documents related to the transfer of detainees by the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.[5][6]

This statement comes after Richard Colvin spoke before a parliamentary committee stating that he warned for a full year that detainees Canadian troops handed over to Afghan forces faced torture before the government began to monitor them. “London, The Hague and Canberra [Australia] are deeply concerned about the absence of solid legal protections for detainees, which – in the age of Gitmo and Abu Ghraib – imperils domestic support for the Afghanistan mission,” said the memo of December 4, 2006, written by diplomat Richard Colvin.[7][8] Amir Attaran also brought forward testimony in stark contrast to then Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan David Sproule's. Afgan prisoners testified that after capture by Canadians, they were subsequently handed to the custody of the Afghan National Army (ANA), claiming they were later been abused by the ANA.

Back in opposition

While the Conservatives were relegated to the Official Opposition after the 2015 election, Nicholson was re-elected and announced his intention to run for the interim leadership of the party. He was defeated by Rona Ambrose, and was subsequently named as the Conservative Justice Critic.[9]

Nicholson did not run for re-election in the 2019 federal election.[10]

Election results

2015 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes%±%Expenditures
ConservativeRob Nicholson27,23542.1-11.16
LiberalRon Planche22,31834.5+15.59
New DemocraticCarolynn Ioannoni13,52520.9-2.59
GreenSteven Soos1,6332.5-1.36
Total valid votes/Expense limit 64,711100.0   $249,861.38
Total rejected ballots 3530.34-0.15
Turnout 65,06463.93;+7.03
Eligible voters 102,606
Conservative hold Swing -13.38
Source: Elections Canada[11][12]
2011 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes%±%Expenditures
ConservativeRob Nicholson28,74853.26+6.56
New DemocraticHeather Kelley12,68123.49+5.63
LiberalBev Hodgson10,20618.91-8.00
GreenShawn Willick2,0863.86-4.61
Christian HeritageHarold Jonker2590.5%+0.48
Total valid votes 53,980100.00
Total rejected ballots 2640.49 -0.01
Turnout 54,244 56.90+2.30
Eligible voters 95,326
2008 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes%±%Expenditures
ConservativeRob Nicholson24,01646.70%+6.3%$77,050
LiberalJoyce Morocco13,86726.96%-7.5%$89,565
New DemocraticEric Gillespie9,18617.86%-3.1%$18,513
GreenShawn Willick4,3568.47%+4.4%$7,974
Total valid votes/Expense limit 51,42599.5%$94,533
Total rejected ballots 2640.5%
Turnout 51,68954.60%
2006 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes%±%
ConservativeRob Nicholson23,48940.4%+1.7%
LiberalGary Burroughs20,09934.5%-2.0%
New DemocraticWayne Gates12,21421.0%+0.2%
GreenKay Green2,4024.1%+0.1%
Total valid votes 58,204 100.0%
2004 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes%±%
ConservativeRob Nicholson19,88238.7%-7.7%
LiberalVictor Pietrangelo18,74536.5%-9.4%
New DemocraticWayne Gates10,68020.8%+14.7%
GreenTed Mousseau2,0714.0%+2.7%
Total valid votes 51,378100.0%

Note: Conservative vote is compared to the total of the Canadian Alliance vote and Progressive Conservative vote in 2000 election.

1997 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes%±%
LiberalGary Pillitteri15,86838.4%-8.7%
ReformMel Grunstein10,98626.6%+1.6%
Progressive ConservativeRob Nicholson9,93524.0%+1.7%
New DemocraticJohn Cowan4,0529.8%+6.4%
GreenAlexander Rados3740.9%+0.3%
Natural LawBill Amos1540.4%0.0%
Total valid votes 41,369100.0%
1993 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes%±%
LiberalGary Pillitteri20,54247.1%+12.1%
ReformMel Grunstein10,89025.0%
Progressive ConservativeRob Nicholson9,71922.3%-17.2%
New DemocraticSteve Leonard1,4703.4%-18.0%
NationalJohn Cowan5131.2%
GreenJohn Bruce McBurney2580.6%
Natural LawBill Amos1660.4%
AbolitionistTed Wiwchar820.2%
Total valid votes 43,640100.0%
1988 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes%±%
Progressive ConservativeRob Nicholson17,07739.5%-15.6%
LiberalGary Pillitteri15,13735.0%+15.2%
New DemocraticDick Harrington9,23221.3%-2.4%
Christian HeritageBill Andres1,7134.0%
Commonwealth of CanadaJean-Claude Souvray970.2%
Total valid votes 43,256 100.0%
1984 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes%±%
Progressive ConservativeRob Nicholson22,85255.1%+18.2%
New DemocraticRichard Harrington9,86323.8%+2.6%
LiberalAl MacBain8,21919.8%-21.3%
GreenRobert G. Scott3520.8%
Social CreditEarl G. Erb1770.4%-0.1%
Total valid votes 41,463100.0%

See also


  1. "The Honourable Robert Douglas Nicholson". 2009-09-04. Archived from the original on 2011-05-16. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
  2. Parliament of Canada. "Member of Parliament Profile: Hon. Rob Nicholson". Retrieved 2012-09-18.
  3. "The Honourable Robert Douglas Nicholson". Prime Minister of Canada. Archived from the original on 20 December 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  4. "Harper cabinet shakeup adds new faces". CBC. 15 July 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  5. Taber, Jane (March 13, 2010). "Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announces full terms of review — The Globe and Mail". The Globe and Mail. Toronto.
  6. "Minister of Justice Releases Terms of Reference for Independent Adviser to Review National Security Informatione". Justice. 2012-08-03. Archived from the original on 2012-03-23. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
  7. Wherry, Aaron (2010-03-12). "What might have been (II) - Beyond The Commons, Capital Read". Macleans. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
  8. Clark, Campbell (December 18, 2009). "'The buck stopped nowhere' at Foreign Affairs on Colvin's warnings — The Globe and Mail". The Globe and Mail. Toronto.
  9. "Conservatives to elect interim leader on Nov. 5". CBC News. 26 October 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  10. "Niagara Falls MP Rob Nicholson will not seek another term". Niagara Falls Review. April 9, 2019. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  11. Elections Canada – Confirmed candidates for Niagara Falls, 30 September 2015
  12. Elections Canada – Preliminary Election Expenses Limits for Candidates
Parliament of Canada
Preceded by
Al MacBain
Member of Parliament
for Niagara Falls

Succeeded by
Gary Pillitteri
Preceded by
Gary Pillitteri
Member of Parliament
for Niagara Falls

25th Ministry – Cabinet of Kim Campbell
Cabinet post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
  Minister of Science
Special Cabinet Responsibilities
Predecessor Title Successor
  Minister responsible for Small Business
28th Ministry – Cabinet of Stephen Harper
Special Parliamentary Responsibilities
Predecessor Title Successor
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Peter Van Loan
Special Cabinet Responsibilities
Predecessor Title Successor
Belinda Stronach
as Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal
Minister responsible for Democratic Reform
Peter Van Loan
Cabinet posts (3)
Predecessor Office Successor
Vic Toews Minister of Justice
Peter MacKay
Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence
Jason Kenney
Ed Fast
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Stéphane Dion
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