(Jamie Koistinen 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 - "You know, there’s no box stores that people are used to and accustomed to shopping to in the Town like there are in North Bay or New Liskeard… I don’t really know how much is the Mine Road that has impacted the lake community or tourists spending less in Town as it is just the general economy.” - Jamie Koistinen
Candidate Jamie Koistinen: Am I allowed to elaborate on these?
Interviewer: Absolutely, on every question you can elaborate.
Koistinen: Okay. That’s a bit of a tricky question because, you know, the Town has actually seen a lot of fluctuation in their economy over the last couple of years. So, you know, the grocery store for, I think it was, one season didn’t operate. Now, it’s only seasonal.
You know, there’s no box stores that people are used to and accustomed to shopping to in the Town like there are in North Bay or New Liskeard. So New Liskeard’s only a half hour away. If you’re travelling from the North, a lot of people will generally stop in Walmart, grab their groceries, because it’s more of a fairer price - not fairer price, less price - than, say, the Town grocery store does have. There’s also, you know, people are wanting to pick up fishing rods, things of that nature: Canadian Tire, those types of big stores are around.
But there are people in Town who sell, like my parents owned Dad’s Convenience Store for years and we sold all those types of things, too. And I also find that, where I was going with all of this is, I don’t really know how much is the Mine Road that has impacted the lake community or tourists spending less in Town as it is just the general economy.
Like, the American dollar has been up, so for those who are American tourists, they, without getting the same exchange, they may not have that extra cushion to afford to buy things in Town. Having said that, though, as someone who has been the daughter of a business owner in Town, I’m a firm believer in trying to support local businesses.
Like, even myself, whether people want it or not, I go buy Christmas presents from Gramp’s Place because, even if they’re just little things for the stockings for, you know, salad scoopers and they have “Temagami” on it, I’ll buy those things for, like, my extended family who don’t live in Town just to try and promote or spending some money locally when it does come time for Christmas or things like that. You’ll generally find me in the grocery store a couple of days a week, but, you know, I’m only one income, so I can’t always afford to do my major shopping in Town, but I try and support.
So that kind of got a little off topic, but - so I don’t really know that it’s the Access Road that has negatively impacted or reduced people spending money in Town. If that Access Road was closed and you had to park in Town to access the lake, I still don’t know that you would see an increase in the local businesses there.
Interviewer: You bring up a good point.
Koistinen: Well, yeah, I don’t know where they would park. I was on holidays last week, the Civic or August Holiday. My brother-in-law came in and he was towing a boat and we were going up to Wahnapitei for the weekend, camping with his kids, and we met up with a pontoon, and then there was vehicles parked on both sides of the road. My brother-in-law pulled off, but the pontoon boat met with my brother-in-law’s boat trailer because the boats were so narrow there. Thankfully no damage was done, but it was like this place was - the vehicles were backed up all the way to Boat Line.
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?
Koistinen: This is a huge question because I know the current Land Use permit that the Municipality has for that area, like the landings, actually expired in June of this year, so - or was it July? It was part of the LTAP meetings there with the MNR where they were discussing that.
And so then what happened was, I was a part of it for a different reason, because I’m overseeing the two large construction projects here on Bear Island, like our multi-use facility as well as our elders’ complex, which is a ten unit, two-bedroom apartment complex, and then there was some discussion, I guess, or controversy over our use of the Access Road for the construction. So that’s kind of what got me involved in LTAP. And maybe, you know, from that, a little bit into politics.
So I’ve actually attended every Council meeting since March, and I’m part of the LTAP Committee, too.
Where I learned, though, that the Land Use permit actually expired, and right now it’s on a one-year renewal, and after that it might be subject to a few different changes where they were talking about whether it be like a lease, a Land Use permit, there was four types of possible scenarios that the Town - a joint venture was another one, with the Temagami First Nation. Because, you know, what we talked there at that meeting was prior to amalgamation, Temagami First Nation did invest in some of the infrastructure that’s there with the docking system and the barges and the barge landings and stuff like that.
And then also our parking lot, the one that was established there, we invested the capital dollars for the expansion of the parking lot, not so much for the - I can’t remember what the fees are that the Town pays for that Land Use permit per year, but I know they’re going to rise significantly because they were talking about that the fees are going to be assessed, re-assessed, and there’s a potential that it’s -.
There was two ways: if they went with a Land Use permit, they were talking about having where it was going to be assessed at 4% of the current market value; and then if it was by a lease, I think it was going to be as high as 6% of market value for that area. Totally off topic here, but -
So the Lake Temagami Access Road, though, it’s a road of - I don’t know how to put it. That road serves the lake residents. The LTA Road also serves - like, it’s a gateway for tourism, and even here, that’s how we access our community. But at the same breath, I also realize that this road is basically Crown Land, but the maintenance is imposed on the Town of Temagami, but, aside from the tax base from the lake residents, there’s no other assistance for maintaining that 18 kilometre Road. And also, the road itself is substandard for a Municipal road. To try and, you know, get some capital dollars to get that road up to a standard at which the Municipality could afford to maintain it, I don’t know that we’ll ever see that in our lifetime because that’s a huge amount of money.
But I don’t know - like, what I’m trying to say is there’s a lot of work there that needs to happen with, like, getting together with the ministers, the newly elected government as well, to see if there is any opportunities for funding to assist with the maintenance of that road. I’m also a firm believer, too, that if Temagami First Nation was somehow involved in that road - that’s kind of mixing waters there. Maybe I won’t say that. Never mind.
But because I know for right now, part of the controversy was is although, you know, we have aggregate trucks coming down, there’s going to be transport trucks carrying trusses, and there’s no - you know, Temagami First Nation, this year, is heavily utilizing the road, yet ,we’re not contributing to upkeep. And so when I was going to the MOU meetings and the LTAP, part of my position was that, you know, Temagami First Nations doesn’t have a grader, we don’t have, you know, stock piles of resources, like pits of aggregates, but, I said, you know, if we would have been working together rather than separately, you know, we could have came up with ideas where, you know, I’m hauling 4,000 tonnes of aggregates here. What’s to say that I didn’t haul, like, 4,400 tonnes, and then I could have, you know, bought cover for the road.
But I said, like, there’s all kinds of opportunities like that that I could have helped out with that - but, like I said, like, the manner in which we were approached did not make us want to work together. In fact, it was, we were going to put our ...
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 don’t think that the Tenets are a significant inhibitor, but what I find is that the Tenets are more promoting preservation and not always economic growth… what I may be disappointed that I haven’t seen, is that the Tenets, or that side of the Tenets, haven’t come together and created some kind of think tank to help improve the economy of Temagami, while maintaining its natural beauty…with the vast majority of professionals that make up the TLA membership, it would be beneficial if there was a type of working group or a committee that worked with the Municipality to help." - Jamie Koistinen
Koistinen: Well, this is a tough one to answer. So, I don’t believe that it’s the Tenets purpose to, you know, inhibit economic activity, and when I read through the policies or, like, the mandates of the Tenets when the official plan was developed, what I find, though, is that the Tenets - how do I word this? What I find is that the Tenets - I’ll just say it like this.
In Temagami, there’s no anchor industry. There’s no big job creation there. And part of what - you know, as disappointing, I guess, from the Tenets side is that, you know, the Tenets, mainly the TLA, are basically a big pool of professional individuals, and what I would like to see, or what I may be disappointed that I haven’t seen, is that the Tenets, or that side of the Tenets, haven’t came together and created some kind of think tank to help improve the economy of Temagami, while maintaining its natural beauty. Like, that’s what I’m trying to say. That with the vast majority of professionals that make up the TLA membership, it would be beneficial if there was a type of working group or a committee that worked with the Municipality to help. You know, you guys are all out there; like, we’re here in Temagami.
What I’m trying to say is, the membership of the TLA comes from a - everyone’s from different regions of Canada and the US, where they’re exposed to more technologies, more industry, and even to on a higher level. So to that point, that’s what I’m trying to say. I don’t think that the Tenets are a significant inhibitor, but what I find is that the Tenets are more promoting preservation and not always economic growth. And that was one of the, I think, six mandates of the Tenets.
Interviewer: Yeah, no, I hear you a lot, and we take that to heart as a TLA board member, for sure. You know, we would heavily feel that the brand, the lake, is what makes Temagami, so let’s do anything that we can do.
Koistinen: Oh yeah, so that’s what I’m trying to say, yeah.
Interviewer: So I think that’s what we’d hear if we did have a working group. 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?
Koistinen: At one of the Council meetings I attended, I actually heard from the business owner establishing the pharmacy in Town. The other person there was the one that bought the Spooner and the Busy Bee, that was a part and parcel deal. But what happened was, moreso with the Busy Bee, because there was not an existing business, the building was vacant, the moment it changed ownership from the Town to a person, you know, he came to, I wouldn’t say complain, but to raise an issue that his taxes were being charged as if he was running a restaurant, and so was his water bill, which was, like, $4,000, and things like that. And he came there and said, like, “I don’t know how as a person coming in here, how can you promote business development as a council if you can’t even work with me to get established.” He was like, “I’m in the process of renovating this building. It’s not going to be a restaurant, but why are my fees being charged as restaurant?”
But that’s not TLA part of the Tenets, that’s the Municipality part of the Tenets. And so sometimes I think that there are some discouraging - you know, so there is some work to be done there if we want to help support new businesses come to Town. Absolutely, I think there is some work that needs to be done.
Interviewer: Does the townsite and Municipality of Temagami have the infrastructure to support "sustainable development"?
Key Candidate Quote - “To me, that’s like coexistence amongst natural environment and resource extraction. You know, urban, rural and remote development, but it’s finding a balance. So, you know, do we have natural beauty in Temagami? Absolutely. Is there a possibility to have some type of infrastructure in Temagami? Absolutely.” - Jamie Koistinen
Koistinen: So, you know, when they’re talking a little bit about sustainable development, to me, that’s like coexistence amongst natural environment and resource extraction. You know, urban, rural and remote development, but it’s finding a balance. So, you know, do we have natural beauty in Temagami? Absolutely. Is there a possibility to have some type of infrastructure in Temagami? Absolutely. But it’s finding a balance that, you know, creates a growing economy in our little Town.
Interviewer: In your opinion what constitutes sustainable development?
Koistinen: Well, it’s basically improving the economy in the longterm, along with improving the economy, you’re also increasing, like, a high standard of living. Increasing the standard of living, without impacting the environment or the area.
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.
Koistinen: Well, for some of it, just for myself, just being in the construction industry, I would honestly think that some of it - I don’t want to say that. But in some ways I think it is a bit - with skilled labour force. Like, when you look at the overall makeup of the Town of Temagami, it’s more of a senior population; there’s not a lot of young families. So, right now, for something to come in here, you would have to have the infrastructure, like homes available, to bring in more families to work at these places.
I look at my street, and everyone down my street of Lakeshore Drive, they’re retired. Not that there’s not a place for them in Temagami, but when you look there, if you were a businesswoman and you wanted to come set something up, that is a challenge. Like, where are they going to live?
Even with the infrastructure, there’s only a couple of hotels. Like, for an example, this construction site, I organized an open house and invited all the vendors, lodge owners, general contractors to an event here to get them involved in the project because, given its size, it was going to create a lot of opportunities locally. And what we learned from there was that none of the lodges had the capacity to house all of our workers, which is why we had to bring in the camp. So we brought in a modular construction camp to accommodate our work force. And at that time, though, that’s also creating - you know, there’s the cooks, the cleaners, the maintenance crew; so in bringing that, we created I think it’s seven more positions just to maintain that camp because they couldn’t be accommodated out on the lake or within the Town itself.
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 - “It will do a surge in the economy, absolutely. You know, there will be contractors coming in to provide build homes, but that’s not a lasting economy other than the small amount of tax base revenue that you could potentially get.” - Jamie Koistinen
Koistinen: That’s a tough one.
Interviewer: In other words, as you know, most of the development living is on the islands, but typically more development particularly on the mainland, do you think that would suddenly spur the economy, would generate a lot of useful, sustainable work and driving
Koistinen: Oh, so if you’re talking about, you know, creation of more lots within the mainland, it will do a surge in the economy, absolutely. You know, there will be contractors coming in to provide build homes, but that’s not a lasting economy other than the small amount of tax base revenue that you could potentially get.
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 - “Should the current owner or whoever decides the development extend the Municipal services, then I would be in support of development of that area; just the Ferguson Point. I don’t believe that septics should be happening on mainland because then how do you control it?" - Jamie Koistinen
Koistinen: So, because that issue has been talked about a little bit on social media, with different people’s platforms and things like that, so I went back and read the Official Plan. And when you read the Official Plan, going back, the intent was there is to be no mainland development on Lake Temagami, with the exception of the those potential lots adjacent to the Township of Temagami, which is right here, the Ferguson Point property showing. So those lots were deemed to be for potential development under the Official Plan provided they were hooked up to the central water and sewage facility.
Should the current owner or whoever decides the development extend the Municipal services, then I would be in support of development of that area; just the Ferguson Point. I don’t believe that septics should be happening on mainland because then how do you control it?
You know, when I think back to why the central water and sewer system was first enforced or even just pushed here in Temagami was because the one minister that came here, and it was a health hazard because of the raw sewage pouring into the lake. And even with that, I think about how my lot, 10 Sunset Crescent, that was one of the homes I owned, and when that happened, I actually had two lots because what they wanted was that so no other septic systems be developed. So that’s kind of my position here.
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 - “My position title is the Capital Projects Manager, so I’m an hourly paid or weekly paid individual. Where the projects right now are currently slated here on Bear Island, so they don’t actually impact, other than the use of the Mine Road, the Municipality. So I really don’t believe I have a conflict of interest that way with my professional occupation… And part of my complaint was I really didn’t feel that Councillor Prefasi - you know, with him wanting to deploy the OPP to limit our contractors from using the road, I really don’t know how he felt that that was supporting a relationship. And not only that too, but I was trying to realize the local benefit for the entire community of Temagami: the Lake, Temagami First Nation, and the Town folks… But I suppose if you were on council and in this job, then how would you have brought that together would really be interesting… Well, that would have been really tricky, but at the same time - I don’t know.” - Jamie Koistinen
Koistinen: So, I guess for my profession, I guess I could just start out and say, like, you know, my position title is the Capital Projects Manager, so I’m an hourly paid or weekly paid individual. Where the projects right now are currently slated here on Bear Island, so they don’t actually impact, other than the use of the Mine Road, the Municipality. So I really don’t believe I have a conflict of interest that way with my professional occupation.
Interviewer: If you had one, though, how would you handle it if and when you’re on council?
Koistinen: I’m just trying to think of a situation where I would be. Like, I’m thinking about others potentially, but I don’t want to use theirs.
Interviewer: Take, for example, the issue that arose with the roads that the project that you’re managing were using roads that then people within Council decided was not appropriate for those roads, and that created a fairly significant conflict. And so how would you resolve that? Becuase you would be both supportive of the project and yet you would feel some obligation to support the Town, so how would you resolve something like that?
Koistinen: In that particular situation, I honestly did not support that Councillor’s stance in his position regarding our use of the road. You know, I even went so far as to submitting a letter of complaint to the Municipality for using such basically covert words as referring to Temagami First Nation as a segment of the area’s population that uses infrastructure without cost, and that’s where I said, you know, I don’t feel that both parties were working together or even adhering to the MOU when I will admit some fault - perhaps that might not be the right thing to say, but admit some fault that, you know, no discussions were regularly taking place to provide updates from our side to the Municipality to let them know that we were starting because this project had been in the making for a few years, right? So there was nothing, no formal discussions to let them know, like, “Hey, we went to tender, we’re starting, this is our plan. This is the impact it’s going to have, and, also, here are the opportunities for the potential of economic partnerships with the lodges, with the contractors.”
And part of my complaint was I really didn’t feel that Councillor Prefasi - you know, with him wanting to deploy the OPP to limit our contractors from using the road, I really don’t know how he felt that that was supporting a relationship. And not only that too, but I was trying to realize the local benefit for the entire community of Temagami: the Lake, Temagami First Nation, and the Town folks.
And in those six weeks at that time that the contract had started, $400,000 was spent locally, and those that benefited, the hardware store, Temagami Electrical, Longshot Manderstrom Construction, Temagami Shores, Temagami Petro; everyone was getting a peice of the pie, and that’s all I was trying to encourage because why wouldn’t you? Right? And even Packard Plumbing because they provide a lot of assistance to us, so I was getting them involved so that they can have a piece of this. Right? And I really didn’t feel that his stance made any sense.
Interviewer: But I suppose if you were on council and in this job, then how would you have brought that together would really be interesting.
Koistinen: Well, that would have been really tricky, but at the same time - I don’t know.
Interviewer: Would you vote to maintain all the Tenets in any developed O.P. for the Municipality of Temagami?