One on One with Markus: Sault Ste. Marie politician Steve Butland

Steve Butland is a name most people in Sault Ste. Marie are familiar with.

Long-time politician on life, politics and family

Steve Butland is a name most people in Sault Ste. Marie are familiar with.

He used to be the mayor, a Member of Parliament and city councillor at various times since in the last 40 years. Before his foray into politics, Butland was a well-known principal and teacher.

Butland had a chance to speak with the CBC's Markus Schwabe about life before politics. And he said it began with a decision forced upon him by his father.

"My father said 'Steve you're not doing all that well, you need to make a decision in one year, perhaps you should set on your own,'" Butland said. "My mother was upset. It was tough love, and it worked. I said, 'Okay, I'll go to teacher's college, which a one-year deal in those times."

"I was no more ready to be a teacher after I graduated than I was to be a plumber."

Teaching in the Sault's west end

Despite not feeling competent for his first few years, Butland ended up teaching at a Catholic school in Sault's west-end, which was a predominantly Italian neighbourhood.

"Half of my class were 16 years old," Butland said. "I was 19 and a bit. About a third of the class didn't speak a word of English, they were from Italy. Their fathers had come to work at Algoma [Steel]."

"They were expected to learn English, they did quickly, and did well."

When the school board offered sabbaticals, Butland was the first to apply—  and be accepted—  for time on leave.

He took his wife and three daughters on a tour of the west Pacific, including Samoa, Fiji and Australia.

'Giving back' to Canada

When he returned to Canada, he made the choice to "give something back" to his country, which prompted his entry into the political field.

"I spent three years as council, one term as MP, then the NDP were decimated, so I came back to lick my wounds."

Following his defeat, Butland returned to municipal politics, and spent four years as mayor.

He was then elected to city council in 2003 and is currently in his fourth term.

Despite his success as a politician, Butland said the daily grind of public life takes its toll, especially on families. He still recalls the days he spent representing his constituents in Ottawa.

"It's not as glamorous as people think it is," Butland said.  "You're there very early in the morning. It's a whole lot of work and a lot of pressure."

"It's surreal," Butland said. "But every day, when I walked into the House of Commons, I said, 'I don't know how you got here, but you're very fortunate."