'Yukon Erik' Nielsen, former Tory MP, dies at 84

Erik Nielsen, who served as deputy prime minister in Brian Mulroney's Conservative government, died Thursday at his home in Kelowna, B.C. He was 84.

Erik Nielsen, who served as deputy prime minister in Brian Mulroney's Conservative government, died Thursday at his home in Kelowna, B.C. He was 84.

Nielsen's son Rick told the Canadian Press that his father died suddenly after a massive heart attack.

Known best as "Yukon Erik," Nielsen was the territory's longest-serving MP. He represented the Yukon for the Progressive Conservatives for three decades, from 1957 until he resigned in 1987.

Longtime Yukon political organizers attributed Nielsen's political longevity to his knowledge of his constituents.

"I used to campaign in the Watson Lake when we lived there. … I didn't know anybody, but he knew everybody," Don Cox, a former party president, told CBC News on Friday.

"He knew everybody in Ottawa, and he had everybody know him, and everybody respected him, and some feared him."

In addition to being Mulroney's deputy between 1984 and 1986, Nielsen also held ministerial portfolios in defence, public works and fisheries and oceans. He was also president of the Privy Council.

A disagreement over the way Mulroney managed the government prompted Nielsen to write his 1989 autobiography The House is Not a Home.

While he was often dubbed "Velcro Lips" in Parliament, Nielsen has been described as sharing a sense of humour with his younger brother, comedian and actor Leslie Nielsen.

"Erik has got a fantastic sense of humour," Leslie Nielsen said in a 1991 interview alongside his brother on CBC Radio's Morningside program.

"He is capable of 'mum's the word' and all that, but, you know, at least I hear a lot of laughing from his side."

In that same interview, Erik Nielsen revealed that their father had a stint in the circus before he immigrated to Canada to work as an RCMP officer.

"It's in our genes," he said. "Our father was a clown in a circus, for heaven's sake."

In reference to the "Velcro Lips" moniker, Nielsen said, "Hey, it wasn't a name that was given me.

"It was a name that I was dubbed by you-know-who," he added, making a reference to the media.

With files from the Canadian Press