A roast and a tribute
Port de Grave MHA Roland Butler puts himself in the firing line for a good cause
They mocked his weight, his penchant for Chinese food and his onagain, off-again diets.
But in the end it was just as much a tribute as it was a roast as Port de Grave MHA Roland Butler put himself in the firing line last month to help raise money for the Shearstown Lions Club.
Political allies, opponents and friends took turns taking verbal shots at Butler on Sept. 25 during a fundraising roast that saw some nearly people file into a jam-packed hall.
By the end of the evening, more than $5,000 was counted, enough to put a “good dent” into the cost of buying new chairs for the service club, organizers say.
In what was an evening filled with laughter and good-natured ribbing, Butler took it all in stride, and managed to get in a few shots of his own at the end of the evening.
He was accused of single-handily forcing the closure of a restaurant in St. John’s because he would eat too much at the buffet.
“ He ate them out of house and home,” joked Bay Roberts Mayor Glenn Littlejohn, one of five roasters who went before the podium. Littlejohn, a Progressive Conservative, was also Butler’s main opponent in the 2007 provincial election, losing by roughly 300 votes.
There were stories about Butler in Speedo swim shorts on a beach in Florida, and accusations from Conservative Senator Fabian Manning that Butler is a “closet Tory.”
Manning stole the show with a series of hilarious stories, including a tale of Butler standing naked in front of a full-length mirror at home, with his wife Maude.
Butler was feeling depressed about his weight and sagging frame, and asked Maude to say something positive about him, to which she supposedly replied: “ There’s nothing wrong with your eyesight, anyway.”
Former long-time Liberal MHA Tom Lush suggested that Butler could really pull his weight, which he described as a “ humongous job.”
He also praised Butler as being a self-made man. “ Just look at him,” Lush deadpanned.
Interim Liberal Leader Kelvin Parsons recalled an incident in the legislature when Butler was having a “ Lean Cuisine” for lunch. Parsons said it was the only time he ever saw Butler contrary.
“ I can assure you that having Roland Butler go into the House of Assembly with only a Lean Cuisine is not going to cut it,” said Parsons.
While the teasing was expected, the level of praise for Butler was more generous than his ample waistline.
The fact that Butler volunteered to be the recipient of more than an hour of public ridicule is symbolic of his character, said Littlejohn.
“ He’s a humanitarian and a true friend,” Littlejohn offered.
He called Butler an “unsung hero” who does not seek accolades, and a true gentleman.
Lush described Butler as “one of the finest I’ve ever met,” and longtime Liberal organizer and friend Kevin Hussey said Butler is “one of the best MHA’s to ever walk in shoe leather.”
Hussey said very few people know the sacrifices that Butler has made over the years to help those in need.
“A lot of children would have went without if not for Roland,” Hussey said. “He’s always been a friend to the poor.”
Added Littlejohn: “ You’ve done us all proud, Roland.”
Former Port de Grave MHA John Efford was scheduled to be a roaster, but was unable to attend because of a family commitment, organizers said.
Butler has already announced he will retire from politics and will not seek re-election in the October 2011 election. But he vowed to keep working hard for his district and the province until his very last day on the job.
“Aunt Nancy,” a.k.a. Nancy French of Port de Grave, put the audience into a fit of laughter after she made a surprise appearance.
Port de Grave MHA Roland Butler and his wife, Maude, wait for the next round of verbal jabs during a roast at the Shearstown Lions Club last month.
They may be on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but Bay Roberts Mayor Glenn Littlejohn (left), Port de Grave MHA Roland Butler and Conservative Senator Fabian Manning share a mutual respect and admiration for each other.
Bay Roberts Mayor Glenn Littlejohn, who unsuccessfully challenged Roland Butler in the 2007 election, called Butler a “true gentleman.”
Long-time Liberal party supporter Kevin Hussey described Butler as the best MHA to ever wear shoe leather.
Interim Liberal Leader Kelvin Parsons joked about Roland Butler’s encounter with a Lean Cuisine.