The announcement by Charlottetown council heavyweight Rob Lantz that he won’t seek re-election this fall has changed the water on several pots of political beans across P.E.I. The news came innocently enough this week, via social media, but immediately changes the dynamics on both civic and provincial fronts.
Mr. Lantz, who works in the information technology sector, served eight years on council, the last four as chair of the demanding planning and heritage committee. Planning issues are fraught with peril — criticized if you do and criticized if you don’t. For the most part, Mr. Lantz was able to stickhandle his way through controversial planning issues without much difficulty. He kept the mayor and council out of trouble and earned a reputation as a competent, reliable and fiscally conservative — if not dynamic — member of council.
His tenure on council was a valuable learning experience, dealing with a sometimes fractious group of councillors, and learning the necessary arts of compromise and consensus to get things done. He served his city well and is fulfilling a personal commitment to himself four years ago that this would be his last term on council.
Mr. Lantz determined now is a good time to make his intentions known, waiting a respectful period before and after Mayor Clifford Lee’s recent re-offering news conference. A challenger had earlier declared for his Ward 3 seat and Frank MacEachern must feel his chances of success have improved dramatically today.
The departure of Mr. Lantz is another key loss for the mayor. Stu MacFadyen, a longtime friend, deputy mayor and comrade in arms, had announced several months ago he was retiring. Mr. Lantz would be a close second on the list of Mr. Lee’s closest confidants on council.
Mayor Lee tried valiantly to change Mr. Lantz’s mind, making a final plea following Monday’s regular public monthly meeting of council. While Mr. Lantz disappointed the mayor, his decision clears the way for his entry onto the provincial scene.
He has long been viewed as one of the rising stars within the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I. Now all eyes within the party are turning towards him. He is an obvious strong candidate for the party’s leadership, being held on an interim basis by the combative Steven Myers. Just the suggestion has re-energized the party. Should he declare, the youthful Mr. Lantz would leap to immediate front-runner status. MLA James Aylward is perhaps the only one on the horizon at this time who could give him a battle for the hearts, minds and votes of long-suffering Conservative faithful.
The PC party executive has been chafing with frustration, waiting impatiently for an electable leadership candidate to declare, and thus be in a position to call for a convention. While a number of names had been mentioned, none have come forward. Mr. Lee was one. Horace Carver was another. At this time, it appears former MLA Kevin MacAdam appears content to remain in Ottawa with his new family, despite losing his senior job with ACOA.
Who knows, should Mr. Lantz declare, it could convince others to entry the fray? Mr. Lantz would follow in the footsteps of his brother, Jeff, who was elected as an MLA in a city seat and now sits as a provincial court judge in Summerside.
Rob Lantz said he would consider any opportunities that might arise. It sounds like a declaration. If he should win the party’s leadership, or even simply decide to run in the next provincial election, it sets up a very interesting battle in Charlottetown-Brighton where Premier Robert Ghiz currently holds sway.