(Dan O'Mara speaking at Temagami Candidate Night. To learn more about the candidate's stance on key election issues, read their interview for Keep Temagami Beautiful below.)
Interviewer: The Temagami Access Road (aka The Mine Road) provides a convenient and centralized access point (and parking) to the Hub area for cottagers, camps, contractors, deliveries, tourists, and guests. In addition, Temagami First Nation manages a sizeable footprint in the vicinity of the Mine and Manitou landings. The Mine Landing is the most convenient trash and recycling point for much of the Lake. However, the road’s location results in many users bypassing the services and access points offered in Town, resulting in lost revenues for businesses.
Q.1a Do you feel that the Temagami Access Road (aka The Mine Road) has negatively impacted business in the Town of Temagami, and allowed/encouraged lake visitors and residents to shop elsewhere and perhaps not even go into town?
Key Candidate Quote - “If I think the road was better, people would use it more, and hopefully, as people come and go, the impact of them going to Town… But the key thing, if we want the landing and the Access Road fixed up, a little bit extra revenue would help move that along… Whether taxpayers or non-taxpayers have to pay, that’s a debate that’s going on right now, will go on, and I think we need to hear from both sides.” - Dan O'Mara
O’Mara: Well, I think in an idea situation it would be very nice if the Access Road kind of headed close to Town, but that’s not the case. So I guess it has some impact, it would be better if it was somehow different but we’re not in a situation where we can really deal with that.
My thing with the Temagami Access Road is I believe it needs to be brought up to a reasonable standard, and as my time on council, that’s been something that I’ve been, you know, pushing for.
We have met with the previous Minister of Northern Development & Mines, and just recently council has asked for another meeting with the new Minister of Northern Development to get it on the table and to work with Temagami First Nation.
If I think the road was better, people would use it more, and hopefully, as people come and go, the impact of them going to Town would have its -. You know, if that road is terrible in July, people aren’t going to come in to Town, you know. Even myself as a permanent resident, you know, I dread using that road when it’s bumpy like it was this year.
And again, you know, I think my record speaks for itself in terms of my commitment to try and get that road upgraded. And since a number of us on the lake have been on council, I think the condition of the road has improved.
So the road is important and I think we’ve got to continue trying to make sure that that road is reasonable so that you’re not replacing your tires and your parts on your vehicle. It might be different for seasonal people that come and go, but as a permanent resident that goes into Town five, six, seven times a week, you know, we definitely could do with improvement, and improvements would help everybody.
Interviewer: What is your vision for the Temagami Access Road and associated landings to balance access, convenience, and services for the users listed above (including TFN), with the Town of Temagami and its local businesses' economic needs?
O’Mara: Okay. I think I spoke about the Access Road. The landing’s a bigger issue. Just before this spring, because of the land use issues, this is something that a lot of us just found out recently, that the Access Point right now has a very basic Land Use permit. By rights, they’re not even supposed to be charging for parking.
We have sat down with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Temagami First Nation at a meeting that was held right just around near the end of election time, and we have one year to come up with a plan, a better land use arrangement, that would allow us possibly to do the things that we want to do, like monitoring. I know it’s a divided issue on the lake whether people should be paying, who should be paying, but even before we get into that discussion we have to get our Land Use permits set up.
You know, the whole aspect things of having places for washrooms, having boat washing facilities and whatever; but the key component, I think, will be, as I know the Temagami First Nation is interested in getting some sort of commitment or some sort of agreement with the government in terms of the Access Point. And I guess right now the commitment was starting sometime in the next - that ourselves, I’m speaking because I’m on Town council, and if I’m re-elected or whatever, whoever gets re-elected will have to sit down with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Temagami First Nation and ourselves to come up with a property Land Use permit that will allow some of the things we want to get done.
I’m not saying that we have to do this, we have to do that. I’m saying we, as a group of people, the TLA, LaTemPRA and some of the permanent residents, need to come together and say, “Okay, what do we want there and how can we achieve it?”
Interviewer: Do you have a view on user fees for the [road]?
O’Mara: Yes, I’ve been on record that we feel that there should be some additional income provided by certain people. Whether taxpayers or non-taxpayers have to pay, that’s a debate that’s going on right now, will go on, and I think we need to hear from both sides. I think it has to be reasonable.
But the key thing, if we want the landing and the Access Road fixed up, a little bit extra revenue would help move that along. And one of the things that I’d try and commit to is any revenue that’s generated would go back into fixing up the access point and the road.
Interviewer: Have there been any studies on that to date, on charging and the feasibility of it?
O’Mara: Yes, there has been a couple a few years ago, from what I understand. I did get a copy of the old report. One of the things it gets into is enforcement and how you go about dealing with it. There was a report and it kind of got put on the back burner, but as part of this Lake Access Point planning committee, the whole subject was on that table and there was some commitment to try and get a group together to look at the options. But because when we found out in our Land Use permit we’re not allowed to charge, the way it is, that’s been put off.
Interviewer: Temagami’s pristine natural environment, which the Tenets endeavour to preserve, gives the region a priceless brand that could be sustainably exploited for the broader economic benefit of all stakeholders in the Temagami community. Further development of Crown Lands surrounding the Lake devalues that magical Temagami brand. We also live in a time when new technologies and work patterns might create new more sustainable and clean paths towards prosperity than past drivers of economic growth. With these thoughts in mind: Do you view the Tenets as a significant inhibitor of economic activity?
Key Candidate Quote - “I think, is important, and TLA has a good role to play here. You’re seen as one of the polarized groups, and we’ve got to find a way of bringing people and bringing everybody together.” - Dan O'Mara
O’Mara: No, I don’t. I think if you actually read the Tenets itself, I think sometimes it’s the interpretations that people take that cause some of the problems. The basis Tenets, I think, are there, and if you noticed in my handout that I gave you is that, yeah, we came together with that particular commitment. Like I said, I’ve retired here, I like what I see, and I’d like to protect the Tenets, per se. Yeah, no, I don’t have a problem with the Tenets of Temagami.
Interviewer: Okay. Do you think other groups see it has a significant inhibitor? You mention the First Nations quite a lot, people in the Town.
O’Mara: Most people in general, from my understanding, respect the Tenets. I think it’s some of the other things that flow from it, different interpretations of what mainland development is. I think some of the components in the official plan, we talked about that before in terms of roof slants and whatever, I think there’s things that we can do, and I don’t think none of those go against the Tenets, right? But some of it goes into some of the questions, which I was hoping the TLA and LaTemPRA and those people would come together, and I know I think we talked about that when I was doing my cottage checks not too long ago. There’s things that I think everybody can agree upon, but instead of being on the fringes, we need to come together.
And that polarization, I think, is important, and TLA has a good role to play here. You’re seen as one of the polarized groups, and we’ve got to find a way of bringing people and bringing everybody together. And if we don’t, we’re going to spinning our wheels. And that might be off topic, but it kind of all flows into that arrangement.
And if I happen to become the mayor, or any way that I can, I want to bring people together.
Interviewer: Are there other factors that are deterring investment and household formation in the area — for example, do high business and property taxes discourage both "clean" industry and remote workers from relocating to Temagami?
O’Mara: I think our community has a fundamental problem, and it’s not easy to solve. Our cost of water and sewer, which is quite devastating. The residents themselves have to pay for the operating costs of the water and the sewer, however the infrastructure costs are shared by everybody. And there’s lots of ways, you know, in terms of how costs get shifted.
But you got to look at it from my stand point of view: I pay a lot of taxes on this lake, and I do my own water and my own sewer, and it kind of bothers me a bit. But on the other side, we’ve got a lot of seniors in Town, and the people aren’t there to support it.
You kind of have to take more of a personal point of view in staying even though it might not be fair, we’re part of a community and that’s something we’re going to have to do. And in terms of costing, we’ve got to try to keep our administration costs down. I think I’ve been on record of trying to find different ways.
Yeah, so I think that stand point of view, and how many people are moving in Temagami, we don’t really have a lot of businesses and that around, and I think that’s why.
Interviewer: Well, that’s the question. Why? The quality of life’s great, the affordability’s great, the brand is great. You know for a young family in Toronto, it’s impossible to get your foot on the property ladder.
O’Mara: See, I don’t have a magic wand for that, but one of the things I do think we need, and I feel strongly in this, is we need a strategic plan. We have a lot of bright people on this lake. We’ve got owners of mining companies, we’ve got owners of big companies, we’ve got people that have been involved in tourism, we need to bring those people together and develop a community strategic plan and vision. And as part of that, we’ll have the discussion about the official plan. That needs to start.
I’ve been asking for that since I’ve been a councillor five years ago, and it’s on the record. And if one of the things I do, we’re going to bring some people in and get a vision that everybody can stand behind and move towards. If we keep working in the fringes, we’re not going to get anywhere to solve this problem.
You know, we’ve got resources. I said the other day, why couldn’t Fortier Beverages come here and use the water and make Temagami Dry gingerale? You know, look at the A & W? They’re promoting no hormones in their cattle. Hey! We could promote our water, you know? That’s just some of the things that if everybody came together, I believe strongly we could make a difference. And if we make a difference, then people might move here.
Interviewer: Temagami is a good brand.
O’Mara: I talked with our MPP John Vanthof. He says Temagami has good things going for them, and bad things going for them. The good thing is, everybody knows about Temagami. The bad thing is, once you talk about Temagami, nobody wants to come up and upset the apple cart. And he said we got to find a way.
I had a long talk with him not too long ago about it, and he says that’s a reality. But we, as a community, got to find a way to stick handle and find that middle ground where we’ve got the attention and we can get some things that go along with our vision and move things forward.
Interviewer: Just out of interest, what stopped you from, as a councillor, not going forward and having this strategic plan and getting everyone together?
O’Mara: I’m only one voice on council. You know? The previous council had a vision statement, and I think it was time to move on. There was some good things in there. Everybody knows our council was dysfunctional. A lot of it has to do with the polarization within this community.
I’ve tried my best to be in the middle, to try and not get too one-sided. Yes, I’ve probably been branded more on one than another side, but I did my damnedest to speak for the things which I felt were good for the community at the time. And, yes, politics I’m finding out is not fun at times, and you can lose good friends in this. But nobody’s complained about me not being respectful. I walk the talk, and I think more people need to do it and more people need to come together.
Interviewer: Does the townsite and Municipality of Temagami have the infrastructure to support "sustainable development"?
Key Candidate Quote - “…we’ve got to try to keep our administration costs down… I feel strongly in this, is we need a strategic plan. We have a lot of bright people on this lake… we need to bring those people together and develop a community strategic plan and vision… I talked with our MPP John Vanthof. He says Temagami has good things going for them, and bad things going for them. The good thing is, everybody knows about Temagami. The bad thing is, once you talk about Temagami, nobody wants to come up and upset the apple cart. And he said we got to find a way… if the internet’s there, there’s a lot of people that can come and do some of the internet type of work at home and whatever. I’m not saying that’s going to solve everything, but we get more younger people here or people that can run a business like that, yes, you know?” - Dan O'Mara
O’Mara: I know we have a problem with some sewer, but I know there’s been some interest now in the industrial park. They’re looking at applying for some funding to get some road developed in there. I know that the economic development committee has been trying to do some work.
In terms of expansion, I think there are some areas that can be expanded, but anything’s possible if you got the resources and the people that want to move it ahead.
Interviewer: What are the main factors deterring investment and new-comers to the area? Select the top two from the list below: Tenets; business obstacles; property taxes; non-property taxes; internet services; skilled labour; or, other things we might not have listed.
O’Mara: I think right now, one of the biggest things we need, and, again, a lot of these questions are things that I take to heart. Internet and communication, we can’t even get Bell Canada to come down here and talk to us. I’ve been pushing that since Bell took over Ontera, and we’ve got nowhere. And I raised it at the meeting the other day. We need to get them to come here and try to commit to some of the infrastructure they have.
I’ve been asking for Xplornet to come to council to explain to us what they’re doing. They have towers now in Latchford, they’ve got satellites, and they got signs at the Access Road saying, “Come and do Xplornet.” But I still hear the people that have Xplornet aren’t impressed with that.And I talked with NEOnet, which is a group which does planning for the north, I’ve had them come to council, and I think there’s an area where we could definitely make big improvements. And, like you say, if the internet’s there, there’s a lot of people that can come and do some of the internet type of work at home and whatever. I’m not saying that’s going to solve everything, but we get more younger people here or people that can run a business like that, yes, you know? Look, I could have gone anywhere in Northern Ontario and I chose Temagami.
Interviewer: Sandy Nixon is an interesting example to me. He’s a Toronto lawyer. You know how much time he spends up here. The only way he can do that, he’s a knowledge based worker, is that he’s got good connectivity, which is, as you say, dodgy. But there’s no reason - I run technology startups, there’s no reason why if the Pipeline was there in the townsite of Temagami, you wouldn’t say, “I’m going to set up my operations there,” and attract smart, young people for the quality of life, nice, small community school. Like, why would you not do that?
O’Mara: Tell me about it. Like, when I was working up north as a hospital administrator, a CAO of three hospitals, I was getting e-mails over a bag phone probably about 20 years ago, and we had to do all the different things to try to keep in touch, because being in touch was important. Right? I was kind of like the guy that they needed to call when there was disasters and whatever, so I always had to make sure I had good communication.
It has always been a challenge. It’s not bad now, to a certain extent, but I’m finding that the internet speeds are slow. My internet’s kicking off. I’ve had Ontera over at my place about four times this week trying to keep the system. It’s an old system.
In fact, this system, from my understanding, was at one time in Moosonee and they moved it here to try and get it, and they’ve been fixing it since.
So I would say that’s an important one. Keeping our taxes down is there. Water and sewer rates I know has been a bugaboo, oh, for the last little while, but I think there has been some work done recently on the water and sewer rates. And skilled labour, well, if you build it, they’ll come.
Interviewer: In your opinion what constitutes sustainable development?
O’Mara: Sustainable development: I guess basically it would be a type of development that would be ongoing. It would be something that everyone, the community and everybody would benefit to a certain extent. You know, if you’re taking something out, you want to put it back.
Like, I know in the forestry industry up north, you know, they have a logging industry, they come in. I know where I came from, Abitibi had a 100 years of resources and they maintained that, and that was kind of ongoing.
Now, on a smaller scale, I guess something that’s just going to come in and reap the benefits and then move on in a matter of one or two years, I guess, is not really sustainable. So I guess that would be how I would respond to that one.
Interviewer: Will further Crown Land lot development on or near Lake Temagami generate lasting /re-occurring economic activity on a meaningful basis?
Key Candidate Quote - “I think from a community stand point of view, would a mine be nice on the other side of the Access Road, not affecting the view or anything? It might cause a bit of traffic on the road, but that’s not going to happen unless Temagami First Nation feels it’s necessary and viable… The only thing I’m saying, there was an agreement in the past, and if the conditions change, that has to get on the table, and, yes, there’s going to be some interesting debate over that… I think I would like to hear both sides before I actually made a decision. I’d probably lean more towards the development a bit, to be honest with you.” - Dan O'Mara
O’Mara: In terms of the thing that I’m looking at is any development on any Crown land anywhere in Temagami is only going to happen if something occurs with the Temagami First Nation. Right now, even trying to get a Land Use permit agreement, they’re going to be at the table. So I believe, I think from a community stand point of view, would a mine be nice on the other side of the Access Road, not affecting the view or anything? It might cause a bit of traffic on the road, but that’s not going to happen unless Temagami First Nation feels it’s necessary and viable.
So I feel it’s very strong for the TLA and the Town to get at the table with Temagami First Nation and become very strong partners, so that if there’s things we can influence to the betterment of our lake. But I also believe that Temagami First Nation has a vested interest in this area, like everyone else, and shares a lot of the same views. But, again, I think that’s important and I think I made a note of that because that was one of the questions you had. And I think that’s pretty well where I would stand on that.
It’s hard to envision what could happen on Crown land without their involvement.
Interviewer: This is an aside, but it’s related. There are signs on the Access Road, like Minke Mining, and it went up about two years ago. I’ve haven’t been able to find out. What is that?
O’Mara: What it is, is Minke Mining, they’ve got an arrangement to get some gravel out of there, and they’re also going to do some - this is from my understanding, and I could be not 100%, but one of the things they were going to do was teach some of the local residents on Temagami First Nation or Indigenous people to do some training in diamond drilling. And they’re going to diamond drill and then use that gravel in that particular -. That did come to council, and it was supported.
They also said that if they have access to gravel, that, you know, they would provide us with some good pricing on gravel for the Access Road and, if they damage the road or whatever, they would also help in that particular area. That’s as far as I know on it.
I know there’s been some mining activity in where that canoe camp was. I know they’ve done some work there in the winter.
Interviewer: Project Canoe?
O’Mara: Yeah. I know they did run some lines across the lake this winter. So there has been some exploration done. Well, we’ve seen the helicopters. So there’s some of that going on. What that is, if that has anything to do with it, I don’t know. Again, I think if there’s anything, I think that would be a good topic to talk to Temagami First Nation about because, if there’s anything coming, then they would be involved in it.
Interviewer: But there’s a New Zealand company, I think that’s who’s doing the exploration with the helicopter, and the helicopter has this huge apparatus on it that actually beams down to earth and identifies particular minerals because they believe that general if there has been a big iron ore deposition, usually that’s accompanied by the deposition of other minerals. For example, Adams Mine was a big iron ore, but there’s a huge amount of gold around iron by Adams Mine.
O’Mara: They also say there’s a lot of cobalt in our area, and cobalt is becoming - with batteries and stuff. So maybe there could be some, but I know a lot of the work that they are doing is probably on old gold mine sites because they’re re- claiming tailings and stuff at one time that was mined at $32 an ounce, some of the stuff they threw out the back door is now worth a lot of money. So but that’s going on everywhere, and if we have a little bit of benefit from that, why not. Right?
Interviewer: What about just particular lot development? Because I think lot development’s kind of focussed on housing and the lake, right?
O’Mara: Well, you know, right now there is the cold water Lake Trout issue, and I think prior to that there was some agreement that they would allow some lot development. I guess if they ever resolve the issue of the Lake Trout issue, if that ever happens, then we have that issue or discussions about whether that’s something that should occur or not.
Interviewer: What’s your view?
O’Mara: Well, I guess at the time there was people that were in agreement of it, so I guess it would be hard now to turn around and say, well, it’s part of the agreement, you got to live up to this. You know? So I think we’d have to have some good discussions about it, unless there’s some rationale, if things have changed.
Interviewer: The original agreement was five lots a year, right? With no turnover; if you didn’t do any, it was still five. That was the original agreement.
I guess the question is, does that reallyequal meaningful economic development over a sustained period of time, or does it actually undercut the brand that you’ve been talking about, which is the pristine part? In other words, is the tradeoff worth what you’re talking about as opposed to taking that brand and leveraging it in the townsite with clean industry on a larger scale?
O’Mara: I think a little bit of both.
Interviewer: Do you think five lots a year, to a maximum of whatever you’re going to hit, is actually going to make a big difference? It’s going to make two people rich.
O’Mara: I guess we’re debating something that I think we have to debate when the times comes. And, yes, there are pros and cons of it, but there was an agreement, and that agreement will have to get discussed if it ever comes on the table. But who’s to say?
Interviewer: Is that sustainable development, though? Is it meaningful development? It’s certainly devaluing the brand, right?
O’Mara: Again, we can debate that. Any type of reasonable kind of work in the area, I think has to be looked at and assessed, the way things are going now. And we have to find that balance. You know, I think there’s views on both sides and whatever, but the only thing I’m saying, there was an agreement in the past, and if the conditions change, that has to get on the table, and, yes, there’s going to be some interesting debate over that.
Interviewer: Well, what would your position be?
O’Mara: I think I would like to hear both sides before I actually made a decision. I’d probably lean more towards the development a bit, to be honest with you. But, again, that’s something that’s there and, you know, I think we’ll have to have that discussion when the time comes. But, again, I don’t think that’s an issue for today.
Interviewer: Just a question about the history of this. So that’s an agreement in place between the municipal and the provincial government, and it’s a present agreement that’s been put on hold?
O’Mara: I think that was all part of when the lake came together, from my understanding, as part of the Tenets and part of the whole discussion.
Interviewer: That was an agreement in the amalgamation.
O’Mara: You know, that was the basis of it. I don’t know the whole history of it, I wasn’t there at the time, but that’s my understanding of it.
Interviewer: Keep Temagami Beautiful respects the rights of patent property owners. Likewise, we are opposed to any additional development of the Lake Temagami mainland as detailed in the tenets. With this in mind would you support development of the Ferguson Point and Ferguson Mountain properties if development included the purchase of the adjacent waterfront Crown Land strip from the province?
Key Candidate Quote - “This is the type of thing that’s causing polarization. We’re worrying about things that aren’t there yet… If it goes against the Tenets, and it was handled properly, yeah, I don’t think there’s an issue.” - Dan O'Mara
O’Mara: I guess one of the things, I don’t know a lot of the history behind that, and that’s something that, you know, as I move forward, I’m going to get there. There were some decisions made by previous council. I guess the position that I’ve taken, if they were sound, good decisions made, then the whole issue of Ferguson Mountain would be null and void. Right?
However, if they’re not, then there’s probably arbitrations or court cases could come of that, similar to what’s going on over the Temagami Barge stuff. Those things are conflicts were back in the days, and if people made the right, sound decisions, then it shouldn’t be an issue.
I don’t think we’re going to resolve the issues around here. We’re not, because it’s in courts and stuff now.
Interviewer: This one isn’t in court. I mean, this might be one you can actually resolve fairly quickly because it’s a piece of patented land, it doesn’t have water rights, it was sold to somebody and the municipality will determine whether that should be developed or not.
O’Mara: There’s many different views out there.
Interviewer: What’s your view?
O’Mara: Right now, I would say no, but you’d have to really look at all the facts and were there other things there. Like I say, I don’t know what was done in the past. Right now, like I say, if the decisions that were done about this were sound, they should hold up and be committed. But I really think if something’s going to happen, it won’t be happening at the council chambers and I don’t think council will have any say in this whatever, no matter what they decide.
Interviewer: Where would it happen?
O’Mara: Well, I guess there were some discussions and things done in the past, right, over this property, and I don’t know.
Interviewer: There was a council vote on this property, so the council decided to uphold the Tenets.
O’Mara: But that could be challenged, right? It could be challenged through courts, it could be challenged through whatever. I don’t know.
I don’t know the whole history on it right now. What I’ll say about this is if the decisions made back years ago were sound, then there shouldn’t be an issue.
Interviewer: Well, they probably were sound because nobody took them to court.
O’Mara: Okay. But who’s to say what’s going to happen tomorrow?
Interviewer: Well, we’d have to look at the past.
O’Mara: Well, that’s right. It’s hard to make a decision based on what’s going to happen. What I’m saying right now, if sound decisions were made and if those are appropriate, then there won’t be no development.
Interviewer: But philosophically, where do you ...
O’Mara: I’m not getting into that. This is the type of thing that’s causing polarization. We’re worrying about things that aren’t there yet. There’s been no application made.
Interviewer: It came to council to get ...
O’Mara: No, I think it came to council to have somebody look into information.
Interviewer: In the past it came to council as a vote. Recently, and I believe the owner’s has said that this council is not going to be able to deal with that, I’ll wait for the new one.
O’Mara: That’s speculation. I don’t know anything about that. The day it comes on the table, if the decisions in the past were sound, I don’t think there’s a problem.
Interviewer: If you had to make this decision, what would be the principles you would make it upon?
O’Mara: If it goes against the Tenets, and it was handled properly, yeah, I don’t think there’s an issue. But see, that’s the problem we have. We have these discussions going on. You’ve got people talking about Temagami Barge, these are fringe issues and we don’t need that.
Interviewer: This may not be a fringe issue because this is mainland development. Not a fringe issue, a main issue.
O’Mara: Again, we might differ on how we want to handle it, and I respect that, but, like I said, it’s not an issue yet, and if the decisions were sound in the past, then it won’t be an issue in the future.
Interviewer: Conflicts of interest arise in many different ways, some overt and others less obvious. The clear avoidance of conflict of interest, or even the appearance of a conflict, on the part of public officials is essential to building trust among your constituents, to providing good governance and to attracting and enabling sustainable economic development.
Bearing that in mind, keeping in mind your [current] professional occupation and/or your ownership in any business or other entities that are active in the municipality, do you have, either directly or indirectly, any conflicts of interest and, if elected, how will you manage these conflicts?
Key Candidate Quote - "I really don’t feel that I have a conflict. But, again, I do believe, and you’ll see on some of my signs, is we need to be collaborative" - Dan O'Mara
O’Mara: Well, I don’t think retirement is a conflict with too many people. And, again, I worked, I was born and raised in Northern Ontario, and I lived up in Northern Ontario, and you know there’s lots of lakes and areas. Our family became involved in Lake Temagami, you know, we started with houseboats and we invested in property and I moved here, and I’ve committed to the community. You know, I’ve got involved in the Legion, I’ve got involved in Ling Fling; there’s lots of things because I believe if you come into a community, you should commit to the community, and I have been. And if that’s in conflict with anything, I don’t think so.
So I really don’t feel that I have a conflict. But, again, I do believe, and you’ll see on some of my signs, is we need to be collaborative, we need to get together, we need to work together, and we need to show respect. Even though if we disagree, we still need to get along. And that’s important. If you read my thing, that’s the message that I’m putting forward.
There’s too much polarization in this community. And, yes, I haven’t did that great of a job on this coming council, but I tried. But if I did become mayor, I would do my damnedest to try and pull it together. And that’s some big commitment that I make to this community and to the TLA, and to everybody on this lake. Let’s get together and move the thing forward, and let’s have some positive.
You know, like, the TLA, we need you to getting meeting LaTemPRA. We need to get together, because if we don’t we’re going to be sitting here in another four years. If the next council is dysfunctional, and I’m part of it, I will quit the day that we have a look and someone’s blaming me for having a dysfunctional council.
We need leadership, and I know up north we’ve pulled hospitals together. You know about the mixed group of health services, you know, and that was part of coming together, pulling people, starting small and getting some things going and getting people that want to do it.
The medical staff was a good example. They didn’t want anything to do with it. But once they saw how strong the other group was coming, they figured they better join or they’re going to get left out.
There will be people that will never do it, and that’s common. There’s always a percentage of people who don’t agree. We’ve got to do something, and I need the TLA and everybody to sing that message.
Interviewer: Would you vote to maintain all the Tenets in any developed O.P. for the Municipality of Temagami?
Key Candidate Quote - “I think the Tenets are an important cornerstone. Again, I think there are some fringe discussions about what some of the mainland development means… [Candidate O’ Mara was asked why he voted against accepting a letter from TLA to Council questioning the inclusion of the Tenet’s among the terms of reference for the new Official Plan]… I was given assurances at that meeting that, yes, as part of the whole process there would be a lot of dialogue, and some of the issues that were in that letter would have an opportunity.” - Dan O'Mara
[Please note: The candidate voted to adopt the Terms of Reference for the New Official Plan for Temagami, which recommended a reexamination of the Tenets, vegetative buffer zones and local neighbourhood policies in the new OP. Here’s a link to a letter from TLA to Council (which Council voted not to recognize) outlining TLA’s concerns. Fortunately this motion has been withdrawn, for now.]
O'Mara: Yes, in terms of the Tenets, yes. I think the Tenets are an important cornerstone. Again, I think there are some fringe discussions about what some of the mainland development means. I know that we talked about the little building on the Access Road that’s part of the little plan, whether that gets done or not, but some people feel that that’s mainland development. And as part of the Tenets, I don’t see it, but there’s other things there that are being played and I think we need to be very, very focussed on what the Tenets are and what it means. And, yes, I support the Tenets 100%.
Interviewer: You obviously see where the TLA is coming from. We believe strongly in the Town. We support in any way we can, but we believe very strongly that the pristine nature is what makes it. It’s not some, you know, one or two year plan where you build an extra house or something like that. We believe strongly that the whole future is that, and the Tenets are the instrument. And anything away from that obviously is of great concern for our members.
It seemed that there was a hostility to the Tenets in this council, and we need to understand what happened there because there was the TLA submission that got rejected based on just a stupid technicality.
You were actually one of three people that voted to refuse to allow our ...
O’Mara: Okay. What it was, the proposal for consultation or the process was developed by the committee. They came forward, and we supported that. And in that discussion at the council table, there was the whole bit about everybody having the opportunity to have their say. And I was given assurances at that meeting that, yes, as part of the whole process there would be a lot of dialogue, and some of the issues that were in that letter would have an opportunity.
One of the things that I did do is, my position on a go forward basis was to try and have the whole issue put on the other council because they’ve got the four years. For us to get too much involved in the official plan right now, we didn’t need any more things to divide us at the table.
And talking to a lot of the people that I know, no, I don’t think anybody at any point was threatening the Tenets.
Interviewer: Well, why did you vote against accepting a letter setting good will. You’re talking about polarization.
O’Mara: The letter itself went back to committee for discussion. We weren’t dealing with the letter, we were actually dealing with the terms of reference of that committee that night.
Interviewer: That’s a very important part of the process, and you talked about being collaborative and having all the major stakeholders, like them or not, agree with them or not, the TLA represents an important stakeholder. To refuse their well intended, well thought out submission is a fairly hostile act.
O’Mara: Well, it wasn’t intended to be hostile. It was intended to get the thing to move forward and try to get the whole discussion on the table. And when I had an opportunity to get it back on, I know there was some other recommendations to try to get a lot of -.
What I wanted to do this summer was to basically get a lot of discussions about strategic plan and the official plan, but things near the end of the council got a little disproportionate. Because right now I want that discussion, and in fact I had a proposal that was going to go to the council that was going to bring somebody in to do discussions about strategic plan, get people’s view, so that when the new council came in they would have that information. And that’s been the intent of mine from the beginning, to get that discussion that you’re asking for.
Interviewer: You can understand how it would upset and alarm TLA members to have you actually vote down that submission.
O’Mara: It didn’t deter the intent of that letter, because that was something I was pushing for all along.
Interviewer: Why didn’t you just accept it?
O’Mara: I think it had a lot to do with the fact that the terms of reference, there was a group of people that wanted to move the terms of reference along, and I went to support them.
Interviewer: You followed them.
O’Mara: I supported the planning committee. And you have people, TLA has people, on that - I shouldn’t say TLA, but there are people from the lake that are there. It’s a balanced group. They came forward with a recommendation, and I supported that recommendation. But I also, in other avenues, my position was to try to get the majority of this put back on to the other council, and I was hoping over the summer we could have a lot of discussions about things in the official plan and about the strategic plan. That never occurred.
Interviewer: Just so you understand the optics, it felt as though there was a mad dash to try to stitch this thing up before the next council so that the stakeholders represented by the TLA got shut out.
O’Mara: I know, because some of the people on the committee were mad at me with some of the things that I did. In fact the other day, the whole issue of hiring a planner came back on the table and it was turned down.
There was a group that felt, I think, that wanted to try to move it along quicker, yes. I was not in favour of that.
Interviewer: As a councillor who chooses the planning committee, we talked about conflict of interest, so do you think those people that are on the planning committee this time, they gave it a wholesome, unbiased report, considering their positions, their conflicts? These are the words you were taking. You were taking their recommendations.
O’Mara: But there’s a lot of people on that committee, right? And the Town put them on that committee. The problem is that one of the things we got criticized over the last few years was, we would get all these committee people going together and then when it came to council, we would shoot it all down and throw it all back at them. But to a certain extent, if you’ve got people working on something, unless it’s really out of whack or something, you try to support that group. And if you don’t necessarily agree with everything that’s in there, there’s lots of ways to skin a cat.
You know, I’ve been on record that we didn’t need this whole issue, the official plan, on the last part of council. We couldn’t get along with all the other things. So realistically, yes, have I made all the right decisions? No. But my commitment right from the beginning has always been there to try to do what I feel is right. And I don’t think anyone will say different.