© Guardian photo by Teresa Wright
Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful Rob Lantz chats with some of the residents of the Andrews of Stratford seniors‚Äô facility during a campaign stop. Lantz is one of three people vying for leadership of the PC party.
For a man who wants to become the leader of one of P.E.I.‚Äôs two main political parties, Rob Lantz is surprisingly unassuming.
The photogenic 45-year-old candidate was soft-spoken and often self-effacing during an afternoon with The Guardian on the campaign trail last week.
He arrived at the newspaper office in a red minivan, driven by one of his campaign volunteers, well-known former CBC personality Roger Younker. Younker joked about the colour of the van, pointing to Lantz‚Äôs blue jeans as a more appropriate colour for the Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful.
Their first stop was the Andrews of Stratford seniors‚Äô facility. Lantz listened attentively during a tour of the facility. It was clear he was familiar with the concerns raised by facility president Keith O‚ÄôNeill regarding difficulties private community care centres are having with government regulations and funding. But he refrained from taking any pot shots at the current Liberal administration over these concerns. He mainly nodded and listened.
Later, he entered a large common room filled with seniors sitting around tables enjoying a mid-morning snack. Lantz went to every table, chit-chatting easily with the residents, occasionally introducing himself as ‚ÄėDr. Brodie Lantz‚Äôs son.‚Äô
Younker commented that three weeks earlier, Lantz found it challenging to work a room. Even now, while he appeared confident shaking hands and making small talk, there was a certain hesitation in his demeanour.
But Lantz firmly dismisses the notion he is a rookie in this campaign. He pointed to the eight years he served on Charlottetown city council, notably as chair of the oft-combative planning board.
With falling oil prices, we‚Äôre getting a very skilled and experienced workforce returning to P.E.I., which is probably unprecedented. And if we can harness their skills and talent and experience, I think we need to view that as a big opportunity.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve had more political experience than the other two candidates. I‚Äôve chaired more contentious public meetings over the past eight years than I can shake a stick at. Charlottetown politics is not just any community council on P.E.I., it‚Äôs a full service community with a $40-million budget.‚ÄĚ
His next campaign stop was a highly unusual one ‚ÄĒ the Crossfit 782 gym. There he showcased his adeptness at chin-ups and weight lifting. He later explained that his campaign team wants people to get to know some of his lesser-known accomplishments ‚ÄĒ he is an avid Crossfitter, he is fluently bilingual, he plays guitar.
Later, he headed over to his campaign headquarters, abuzz with volunteers working the phones. Someone handed Lantz a spreadsheet. It was a list of people he was to follow up on with personal phone calls.
Lantz explained his team has a comprehensive database with names and details of all party members, including whether they are supporters and their key issues of concern.
Lantz says he sees himself as an ‚Äúunconventional politician‚ÄĚ because he not in this race for personal gain, but because he wants to change the way things are done in government.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm not interested in getting into it just to be a cog in the wheel of the big machine and perpetuate the status quo,. Maybe I‚Äôll fail, but I prefer to be in there the same way I was on city council ‚ÄĒ constantly advocating for new ways of doing things ‚Ä¶ My best case scenario is to make a transformational change that will set the province on a path for a new era of prosperity for a generation.‚ÄĚ