Dickson advised federal and provincial governments on numerous projects, including Nova Scotia's oil and gas agreements with Ottawa in the early 1980s.
He also played a key role advising the federal government on the building of the Confederation Bridge, which links New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper extended his condolences to Dickson's family and friends.
"The people of Nova Scotia and of Canada mourn the passing today of this notable Canadian," Harper said in a statement.
"He remained a committed advocate for Nova Scotia throughout his life and will be missed."
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter also issued a statement, saying Dickson was a "great champion on behalf of Nova Scotia," especially when it came to promoting the Lower Churchill hydroelectric development in Labrador.
"He was one of those people who really mobilized the Conservative caucus in Ottawa," Dexter said. "Obviously, we are very thankful to him for his work on that."
Dickson was appointed to the Senate by Harper in late 2008, and took office in January 2009.
Born in Glace Bay, N.S., he graduated from Acadia University in 1958 and received a law degree from Dalhousie University in 1962.
Prior to joining the Senate, he was a director of a wide range of associations and corporations, including Nova Scotia's Offshore-Onshore Technologies Association, Air Canada, High Liner Foods Inc., Cape Breton Development Corp. and National Sea Products Ltd.
Dickson also worked with the Halifax-based law firm McInnes Cooper, focusing on energy and natural resources law.