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Robert Carman Coates, PC QC (March 10, 1928 – January 11, 2016) was a Canadian politician and Cabinet minister.

Robert Coates
Member of the Parliament of Canada
In office
Cumberland (1957–1966)
Cumberland—Colchester North (1966–1976)
Cumberland—Colchester (1976–1988)
Preceded byAzel Randolph Lusby
Succeeded byBill Casey
Personal details
Robert Carman Coates

(1928-03-10)March 10, 1928
Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada
DiedJanuary 12, 2016(2016-01-12) (aged 87)
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Political partyProgressive Conservative Party of Canada
ProfessionAuthor, barrister, lawyer

Coates was first elected to the House of Commons of Canada 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. Hellyer had scrapped the traditional British style uniforms and ranks of the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force and replaced them with a green American style uniform and ranks for the unified Canadian Forces.[3] 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,[4][5] returned to the backbench, and did not run in the 1988 election.[6][7] Coates resigned after it emerged that he visited several strip clubs during a trip to West Germany in early 1985.[8]

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

Coates died in Halifax on January 11, 2016 after a short illness, at the age of 87.[9][10]


  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. ^ Morton, Desmond A Military History of Canada, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1999 page 252
  4. ^ "Coates resigns over nightclub visit". The Globe and Mail. February 13, 1985.
  5. ^ Wren, Christopher S. (February 13, 1985). "Canadian Defense Minister resigns in a scandal". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  6. ^ "Coates touted for Senate seat after deciding to resign as MP". The Globe and Mail. September 20, 1988.
  7. ^ "Conservative Coates feted by colleagues". Amherst Daily News. March 26, 2012. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  8. ^ Morton, Desmond A Military History of Canada, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1999 page 265
  9. ^ Cole, Darrell (January 13, 2016). "Mourning a people's politician". Amherst News Citizen-Record. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  10. ^ "Former MP Robert Coates dies at 87". The Chronicle Herald. January 12, 2016. Retrieved 2016-01-12.

External linksEdit

24th Ministry – Cabinet of Brian Mulroney
Cabinet post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Jean-Jacques Blais Minister of Defence
Erik Nielsen