James Conmee, who served as Councillor and Mayor, Member of Legislative Assembly for Algoma West, and Member of Parliment for Thunder Bay and Rainy River, was a popular political figure known for his involvement in utilities and mining.
Born in Grey County, he arrived in Fort William around 1872 to work on a sawmill on the Kaministiquia. In 1876, Conmee established a contract to be mail carrier between Pigeon River and Silver Islet, and then began work in the lumber and railway contracting business, which included contracts with both the Prince Arthur’s Landing and Kaministiquia Railway and the Pacific Railway.
Conmee served as assessor and tax collector for the Municipality of Shuniah, and was elected as Councillor in 1879. Despite his lack of formal education, he was recognized as an excellent speaker and debater. He was elected Mayor of Port Arthur for 1885, and almost immediately thereafter, secured a seat in provincial politics as a Liberal Member of Legislative Assembly for Algoma West.
Throughout this time, he continued to work as a contractor on railway projects, and invested in utility companies. In 1885, Conmee and his business partner, John McLennan, were faced with a lawsuit for allegedly defrauding the Canadian Pacific Railway on their Lake Superior contracts. Both were cleared of all charges by 1889, and Conmee's public reputation as a strong-willed fighter grew.
The collapse of the silver mining industry in the early 1890s brought a depression to the Thunder Bay area, and changed the tone of Conmee's political career. By siding with his constituents against his party over new mining legislation, he damaged his chances of advancing any further in provincial politics. He ran in the Federal Election of 1896, and was elected Member of Parliment for Thunder Bay and Rainy River in 1904 and 1908.
Born: Oct. 13, 1848, in Sydenham Township, Grey County, Ontario
Died: July 23, 1913, in Prescott, Arizona, at the age of 64
Councillor: Shuniah Councillor, 1879-1881
Member of Legislative Assembly, Ontario: Liberal MLA Algoma West 1885-1904
Member of Parliament: Liberal MP Thunder Bay-Rainy River 1904-1911
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