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The Honourable
Robert Nicholson
Official Opposition Critic for Justice
Assumed office
November 20, 2015
Leader Rona Ambrose
Preceded by Françoise Boivin
Minister of Foreign Affairs

In office
February 9, 2015 – November 4, 2015
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Ed Fast (Acting)
Succeeded by Stéphane Dion
Minister of National Defence

In office
July 15, 2013 – February 9, 2015
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Peter MacKay
Succeeded by Jason Kenney
Minister of Justice
Attorney General of Canada

In office
January 4, 2007 – July 15, 2013
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Vic Toews
Succeeded by Peter MacKay
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

In office
February 6, 2006 – January 4, 2007
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Tony Valeri
Succeeded by Peter Van Loan
Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

In office
February 6, 2006 – January 4, 2007
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Belinda Stronach (Democratic Renewal)
Succeeded by Peter Van Loan
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Niagara Falls
Assumed office
June 28, 2004
Preceded by Gary Pillitteri

In office
September 4, 1984 – October 25, 1993
Preceded by Al MacBain
Succeeded by Gary Pillitteri
Personal details
Born Robert Douglas Nicholson
April 29, 1952(1952-04-29) (age 70)
Niagara Falls, Canada
Political party Progressive Conservative (Before 2003)
Conservative (2003–present)
Spouse(s) Arlene Nicholson
Alma mater Queen's University
University of Windsor
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature Rob Nicholson's signature

Robert Douglas "Rob" Nicholson, PC, QC, MP (born April 29, 1952), is a member of the Canadian House of Commons, representing the riding of Niagara Falls for the Conservative Party. He previously served as Minister of National Defence, Minister of Justice, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

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 Upper Canada.[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, 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)

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

Rob Nicholson at G7 Foreign Ministers & EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Meeting in Germany

Robert Nicholson, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with aboriginal northerners at a replica Inuit village in Aglukkaq's hometown of Inaquit, Canada

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]

Electoral record

Election results

Canadian federal election, 2015
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
Conservative Rob Nicholson 27,235 42.1 -11.16
Liberal Ron Planche 22,318 34.5 +15.59
New Democratic Carolynn Ioannoni 13,525 20.9 -2.59
Green Steven Soos 1,633 2.5 -1.36
Total valid votes/Expense limit 64,711 100.0     $249,861.38
Total rejected ballots 353 0.34 -0.15
Turnout 65,064 63.93; +7.03
Eligible voters 102,606
Conservative hold Swing -13.38
Source: Elections Canada[10][11]
Canadian federal election, 2011
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
Conservative Rob Nicholson 28,748 53.26 +6.56
New Democratic Heather Kelley 12,681 23.49 +5.63
Liberal Bev Hodgson 10,206 18.91 -8.00
Green Shawn Willick 2,086 3.86 -4.61
Christian Heritage Harold Jonker 259 0.5% +0.48
Total valid votes 53,980 100.00
Total rejected ballots 264 0.49 -0.01
Turnout 54,244 56.90 +2.30
Eligible voters 95,326
Canadian federal election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
Conservative Rob Nicholson 24,016 46.70% +6.3% $77,050
Liberal Joyce Morocco 13,867 26.96% -7.5% $89,565
New Democratic Eric Gillespie 9,186 17.86% -3.1% $18,513
Green Shawn Willick 4,356 8.47% +4.4% $7,974
Total valid votes/Expense limit 51,425 99.5% $94,533
Total rejected ballots 264 0.5%
Turnout 51,689 54.60%
Canadian federal election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Conservative Rob Nicholson 23,489 40.4% +1.7%
Liberal Gary Burroughs 20,099 34.5% -2.0%
New Democratic Wayne Gates 12,214 21.0% +0.2%
Green Kay Green 2,402 4.1% +0.1%
Total valid votes 58,204 100.0%
Canadian federal election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Conservative Rob Nicholson 19,882 38.7% -7.7%
Liberal Victor Pietrangelo 18,745 36.5% -9.4%
New Democratic Wayne Gates 10,680 20.8% +14.7%
Green Ted Mousseau 2,071 4.0% +2.7%
Total valid votes 51,378 100.0%

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

Canadian federal election, 1997
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Liberal Gary Pillitteri 15,868 38.4% -8.7%
Reform Mel Grunstein 10,986 26.6% +1.6%
Progressive Conservative Rob Nicholson 9,935 24.0% +1.7%
New Democratic John Cowan 4,052 9.8% +6.4%
Green Alexander Rados 374 0.9% +0.3%
Natural Law Bill Amos 154 0.4% 0.0%
Total valid votes 41,369 100.0%
Canadian federal election, 1993
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Liberal Gary Pillitteri 20,542 47.1% +12.1%
Reform Mel Grunstein 10,890 25.0%
Progressive Conservative Rob Nicholson 9,719 22.3% -17.2%
New Democratic Steve Leonard 1,470 3.4% -18.0%
National John Cowan 513 1.2%
Green John Bruce McBurney 258 0.6%
Natural Law Bill Amos 166 0.4%
Abolitionist Ted Wiwchar 82 0.2%
Total valid votes 43,640 100.0%
Canadian federal election, 1988
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Progressive Conservative Rob Nicholson 17,077 39.5% -15.6%
Liberal Gary Pillitteri 15,137 35.0% +15.2%
New Democratic Dick Harrington 9,232 21.3% -2.4%
Christian Heritage Bill Andres 1,713 4.0%
Commonwealth of Canada Jean-Claude Souvray 97 0.2%
Total valid votes 43,256 100.0%
Canadian federal election, 1984
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Progressive Conservative Rob Nicholson 22,852 55.1% +18.2%
New Democratic Richard Harrington 9,863 23.8% +2.6%
Liberal Al MacBain 8,219 19.8% -21.3%
Green Robert G. Scott 352 0.8%
Social Credit Earl G. Erb 177 0.4% -0.1%
Total valid votes 41,463 100.0%


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "The Honourable Robert Douglas Nicholson". 2009-09-04. Retrieved 2010-12-20. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Parliament of Canada. "Member of Parliament Profile: Hon. Rob Nicholson". Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  3. "The Honourable Robert Douglas Nicholson". Prime Minister of Canada. 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. 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. Elections Canada – Confirmed candidates for Niagara Falls, 30 September 2015
  11. Elections Canada – Preliminary Election Expenses Limits for Candidates

External links

Unrecognised parameter
Preceded by
Al MacBain
Member of Parliament
for Niagara Falls

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

Cabinet Post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
' Minister of Science
Special Cabinet Responsibilities
Predecessor Title Successor
' Minister responsible for Small Business
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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