The sudden loss of former Oak Bay mayor Nils Jensen came as a blow his family and to Oak Bay, its residents and his former colleagues.
Jensen died on Sunday after a short battle with cancer at the age of 69. Kind words came pouring in from local politicians following the news of his death. Only those closer to him knew how critical his battle with cancer had become.
Born in Copenhagen and raised in Canada, Jensen worked as a lawyer including as Crown prosecutor and also taught at the University of Victoria. He joined Oak Bay council in 1996 and succeeded Christopher Causton as mayor in 2011.
Saanich Coun. Susan Brice, who preceded Jensen’s time in Oak Bay when she was Oak Bay mayor, ended up working with him on the CRD when she returned to municipal politics following her post as MLA of Saanich South.
“We knew he was ill but didn’t know how serious it was until very recently,” Brice said. “It still comes as a blow, you can see how he hit people, it’s a very human emotion and kind of a reminder, we all come together to work in a political milieu, where you also become friends.”
Brice enjoyed Jensen’s jovial sense of humour.
“We would be at UVic for a gathering and he would joke, ‘Are we on the Oak Bay side or the Saanich side?’ he always did it with a twinkle in his eye,” Brice said. “He was extremely pleasant to work with, and he was smart. I personally liked asking him for advice, if he was championing a position, I knew he’d have given it a lot of thought, you have confidence in a person like that.”
Jensen was mayor of Oak Bay the past two terms but lost his bid for a third term to Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch – who was on council during Nils’ mayoralty – in the recent October election. Despite differing priorities Murdoch has nothing but respect and adulation for Jensen’s time as a politician.
I was so sad to hear of the passing of my friend and colleague Nils Jensen. He had a great sense of fun and a wonderful sense of humour. Some of that is shown in these photos taken here on a Navy day sail that the mayors were invited to take part in. He will be truly missed. pic.twitter.com/0ZajLTtht0
— David Screech (@DavidHScreech) April 8, 2019
“We were always professional, always respectful, we had different opinions on priorities but were always respectful of each other in our public debates. And we’d go out and have a drink afterwards.”
After two terms as a councillor Murdoch ran against Jensen in the fall. It was the kind of political race all elections should be and showed what type of person Jensen was, Murdoch said.
“He was always very professional, a very intelligent man who worked really hard on behalf of Oak Bay at all times,” Murdoch said. “All of that made him quite effective as a councillor and as a mayor. I knew him as a person as well and what struck me was his focus on his family, which carried through his work.”
Jensen served on the CRD Board during his time as mayor, 2011-2018, and served as CRD Board Chair in 2014.
“He was into water conservation and management before it became so commonplace,” said Brice.
From 2007 to 2011 Jensen was part of the Regional Water Supply Commission and played a key role in 2002 to raise the Sooke Lake dam by six metres, doubling the size of the reservoir storage. In 2007 and 2010, he helped lead the CRD’s significant investments in purchasing the Leech Water Supply Area to protect and ensure a future drinking water supply for Greater Victoria.
At times Jensen also served as chair of CRD’s Finance Committee, Planning and Protective Services, and Environmental Services and represented the CRD on the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and the Municipal Finance Authority.
During his time as chair of the CRD Board from 2014-2015, he was a champion for advancing the Wastewater Treatment Project.
“Sewage was a thorny issue, but he never gave up, he stuck with it,” Brice said. “He was able to discern what the real issues were, the options, to help guide others to fulfill an expectation. Sometimes these things aren’t done in one meeting. They take months, years, and he didn’t lose his focus.”
Despite Brice holding office as a provincial cabinet minister, she loved that Jensen always introduced her as former mayor of Oak Bay.
“That was the ultimate compliment for him. He was proud of it.”
A memorial service for Nils Jensen is Thursday, April 11, at 2 p.m. in the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre at Oak Bay High School.