Oak Bay mayor in a race to get voters onside and out to polls
Christopher Causton is ringing the bell to one of three entrance doors to a James Bay house that’s been converted into suites.
The Mayor of Oak Bay, who’s taken a leave of absence to run as federal Liberal candidate in Victoria, is obviously not in Oak Bay any more.
“I like this,” he says, pointing to a handwritten sign on the mailbox that says “Have a great day!”
Seemingly always in a sunny mood, Causton’s brow furrows while door-knocking when asked about what he stands for.
“I bring to this campaign the Liberal position, which is a centrist position, of fiscal accountability along with concerns for social justice.”
Yes, but what would he do for Victoria if elected?
“Issues all revolve around regional knowledge and regional representation,” he says. “That could be regional transportation, as far as highways, an airport runway extension, a marina in the Inner Harbour.”
Causton pauses as he watches a couple approaching, then continues when they turn away.
“It’s been interesting, On the doorstep what I hear is ‘I know who Harper is’ – and generally they don’t like Mr. Harper – ‘I know who Jack Layton is, and I don’t know Michael Ignatieff. But you’re supporting him and I know you so that’s an indication you really like him.’”
Causton was born in Cobham, Surrey in England and studied hospitality at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. He came to Canada on a co-op in 1968, went back to the U.K. and returned again in 1970.
In 1972 he took the train across Canada and in the first few weeks in Greater Victoria, stayed at a youth hostel. Later that year he bought the Old Towne Bistro in Bastion Square with businessman Larry Hanlon and sold it in 1974. He worked at The Keg in the U.S. before starting Rattenbury’s in the Crystal Garden.
He was elected as an Oak Bay councillor in 1987 and then mayor in 1996, two months after he sold Rattenbury’s. He’s been a moderate voice as mayor, keeping the right wing happy with low taxes and the left with such forward-thinking initiatives as municipal electric cars.
He was also the tiebreaker in a council impasse last year, voting in favour of further examining legalizing secondary suites in Oak Bay.
He has been married for 30 years to his wife, Elizabeth, with whom he has two daughters, Sarah and Jennifer.
Causton stepped aside from his posts as B.C. Transit Commission chair and CRD Parks chair to run for Member of Parliament. Although he’s been Oak Bay mayor for 15 years, he thinks his regional work helps voters recognize him.
Then he gets down to brass tacks.
“This is a race between Denise (incumbent NDP MP Savoie) and myself,” he says. “Denise is pleasant, but she represents a third party in the federal forum … where it’s very difficult to get anything done.”
If elected, Causton says, he could “build from the middle out, as opposed to one side of the spectrum to another.” As MP he would lobby for operating funds to address homelessness in Victoria, but also to deal with bigger picture issues of mental illness and affordable housing.
His promise to put campaign signs only on private property means he’s working harder than his opponents, he says – although Savoie’s camp has pledged to do the same.
He’s also pledged to do his part to get voter turnout in the riding up to 80 per cent. Turnout nationally was 58.8 per cent in 2008. “I say even if you’re not going to vote Liberal, just get out and vote.”
• Affordable housing
• The health of the local, regional and national economy
All are tied to federal policies and potential funding directly to Victoria, to help solve some pressing issues: an infrastructure deficit affecting especially the City of Victoria; commuter congestion, and affordable housing for those who most need it.
– Christopher Causton