PC Leader Rob Lantz
An evolution from municipal to provincial politics
It was about a decade ago that Rob Lantz was bitten by the political bug. He had made the decision to run for Charlottetown city council and set out for his first day on the campaign trail.
The feeling that gripped him as he approached his first door is still fresh in his mind today.
"Sheer, utter terror!" he recalled.
"I've never considered myself a natural politician. Knocking on a door was terrifying for me. I didn't know what people would want to talk about or how tough the questions might be."
Fast forward to present day, and that apprehension about going door to door has disappeared.
"It's become my favourite part of the job. Prince Edward Islanders are friendly, generous people and they are so engaged in the political process. I love to listen, and find I learn something from every single Islander I encounter."
Lantz's roots run deep on this Island. His ancestors arrived here in the late 1700s and his lineage includes farmers, lighthouse keepers, merchant mariners and homemakers.
His family also includes physicians, in grandfather Joe, father Brodie and brother Chris, and, yes, politicians. His brother Jeff was a cabinet minister in the Pat Binns Progressive Conservative government from 2000 to 2003.
Lantz himself has worked for the past 16 years at DeltaWare Systems, an information technology consulting company in Charlottetown. He was elected to city council in 2006, re-elected in 2010, and quickly found a political mentor in longtime Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee.
The admiration is mutual.
"My initial impression was that he was a smart young man," said Lee. "He very quickly became a go-to guy for me on city council. When I gave him a complicated issue, I knew he would approach it with sound reasoning and seek guidance if he needed it."
One of Lantz’s many duties on council was chairing the planning and heritage committee for the last four years. He cites this as the essential period in his political growth.
He encountered many developers who were frustrated with the process of approvals with the city. To help alleviate that, Lantz spearheaded the rewriting of the development bylaws. He says the new approaches to planning and community design "make it easier to get good things done now. We've removed a lot of red tape."
My job as premier will be to look out for the interests of this Island. It's a natural next step, and it's one I'm totally ready for.- Rob Lantz
When Lantz chose not to reoffer in the municipal elections of 2014, many political watchers thought a foray into provincial politics was a foregone conclusion.
Lantz says that was not the case.
"Oh, there were discussions, I won't deny that. But it was far from a slam dunk," he said.
"I basically just rested for the summer and put it to the back of my mind. Then when fall came around, the idea just gained momentum, especially with my family. My wife, Kelly was totally on board. And so were my boys, Brodie and Ronan. Their support was key."
'I'm my own man'
It is also key to have a skin that has been thickened by eight years in the municipal spotlight. His new provincial political opponents have repeatedly criticized Lantz on two main fronts — the first being that he's from the Charlottetown neighbourhood of Brighton, and, therefore, has no real feel for life in rural P.E.I.
"Look, I really had very little say in where I was born. None of us do. But seriously, I love my city, and my job as councillor was to look out for the interests of Charlottetown," said Lantz.
"I also love my province, and my job as premier will be to look out for the interests of this Island. It's a natural next step, and it's one I'm totally ready for."
He bristles at that suggestion.
"I'm not sure what a backroom is, but I will admit that we had many longtime, well-known Tories working on my campaign. But we also had a lot of younger people, people new to the process who had never worked on a campaign before. I took energy and enthusiasm from both camps."
And to those who might question his independence, Lantz said: "Bottom line is this — I'm my own man. I know how to take advice, but I don't blindly take direction. And I won't be anyone's puppet. You can be guaranteed of that."