Given the state of journalism, broke young freelancers taking up the Chronicle Herald’s offer to work as replacement labour during a union strike is understandable, if not regrettable. It’s a little more surprising when the man crossing the picket line to cover city hall turns out to himself be a former mayor.
Bruce Lantz, former British Columbia newspaper publisher and the mayor of Fort St. John from 2008 until 2011 is now reporting for the Chronicle Herald while its newsroom is on strike. That’s Lantz below in the red shirt, sitting and working next to Remo Zaccagna—the reporter he’s replacing—during the last meeting of Halifax Regional Council.
Though he's without bylines in the Herald, Lantz is no stranger to seeing his name in print. He was elected as mayor of the northern BC community of Fort St. John—population 20,000—in 2008. In 2010, Fort St. John’s city council received two complaints about the mayor's “unacceptable behaviour," prompting his fellow councillors to saddle the mayor with several restrictions. Those included banning him from traveling outside the region as a city representative unless joined by another councillor and forbidding him from being alone with any female city staffer.
Lantz later apologized publicly and explained he’d relapsed into alcoholism after suffering a heart attack years prior. He would step down later that year, telling voters “the joy has gone out of this position” and it was time “to move back into the private sector.” Since then he’s moved back home to Nova Scotia and runs his own marketing firm.
Aside from an understanding of municipal politics, Lantz is also quite familiar with the realities of running a newspaper. Before his career in politics he worked for several years in British Columbia as publisher of the Alaska Highway News and later his own Northeast News paper. Though even that's not without some controversy. The Alaska Highway News quotes a 2004 Canadian Press report that Northeast Weekly publisher Rob Ritchie attempted to sue former employee Lantz in provincial court for $1.3 million after Lantz left to start his own paper. Ritchie accused Lantz of taking advantage of advertisers and page templates to start up his Northeast News publication.
Lantz declined any comment when reached by The Coast.
The striking Halifax Typographical Union has declared it will name any and all replacement workers scabbing for the Herald during this ongoing labour dispute, but so far hasn’t followed through on that promise.