Robert Coates (politician)

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Robert Carman Coates, PC, QC (born March 10, 1928) is a Canadian former politician and Cabinet minister.

Coates was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons in the 1957 election as the Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Cumberland, Nova Scotia. Coates was a backbencher during the John Diefenbaker and Joe Clark governments. He was appointed to the Cabinet of Brian Mulroney as Defence Minister following the Tory victory in the 1984 election.[1]

Coates' main initiative was the re-introduction of separate uniforms for the naval, land and air branches of the military.[2] Liberal Paul Hellyer had unified the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force into an integrated Canadian Forces with a single uniform in 1967. Coates and other Progressive Conservatives had long derided this decision as disrespectful of tradition. Although it provided a huge boost to military morale, particularly in the navy, the restoration was strongly opposed by the then-Chief of Defence Staff, General Gerard Thériault, on grounds that the dark green imposed in the 1960s was the only possible "distinctly Canadian" uniform colour. While Coates reintroduced distinctive uniforms for each service, he was unable to reverse the unification of the forces.

Coates resigned from the Cabinet on February 12, 1985,[3] returned to the backbench, and did not run in the 1988 election.[4]

Before politics Coates was a barrister and member of the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society.


  1. ^ "40-member Cabinet includes 23 first-time ministers". The Globe and Mail. September 18, 1984. 
  2. ^ "Coates makes first moves to change forces' uniforms". The Globe and Mail. September 21, 1984. 
  3. ^ "Coates resigns over nightclub visit". The Globe and Mail. February 13, 1985. 
  4. ^ "Coates touted for Senate seat after deciding to resign as MP". The Globe and Mail. September 20, 1988. 

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24th Ministry – Cabinet of Brian Mulroney
Cabinet Post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Jean-Jacques Blais Minister of Defence
Erik Nielsen
Parliament of Canada
Preceded by
Randolph Lusby, Liberal
Member of Parliament for Cumberland
1957 – 1966
Succeeded by
riding abolished
Preceded by
riding created
Member of Parliament for Cumberland—Colchester North
1966 – 1976
Succeeded by
riding abolished
Preceded by
riding created
Member of Parliament for Cumberland—Colchester
1976 – 1988
Succeeded by
Bill Casey, Progressive Conservative