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James Moore’s offensive comments about child poverty

Last month, the Toronto Star reported, “One in seven Canadian children — or 967,000 — still lives in a low-income household… National child poverty numbers were down slightly from 2010 when 979,000 were living in poverty. But they are still higher than in 1989 when the House of Commons unanimously resolved to end child poverty by the year 2000. At that time there were 912,000 children living in poverty…” And Vancouver 24 hours notes, “Child poverty has been a hot issue since a damning Nov. 26 report … indicating British Columbia has the worst child poverty rate in Canada at more than 18.5%.”

On Friday, Vancouver News 1130 reporter Sara Norman asked federal Industry minister James Moore about ‘kids going to school hungry’. Moore replied, “Well, obviously nobody wants kids to go to school hungry. Certainly we want to make sure that kids go to school full bellied, but is that always the government’s job to be there to serve people their breakfast? Empowering families with more power and resources so that they can feed their own children is, I think, a good thing. Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.”

The reporter posted a line about this on Twitter on Sunday. Initially Moore said his comments had been taken out of context. Then the radio station posted the complete audio of the interview to their website. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow commented in a Tweet, “Industry Minister James Moore is a disgrace. Belongs in a Charles Dickens novel.”

And now, the potential Conservative leadership aspirant says, “In response to a question from a reporter last week, I made an insensitive comment that I deeply regret. I apologize. …I know the cause of fighting poverty is not helped by comments like those I made last week. For that, I am sorry.”

The Toronto Star reports, “Adrienne Montani, provincial co-ordinator of First Call-B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, said along with provinces, the federal government has responsibility to develop policies to address child poverty, by raising the national child tax benefit, investing more in affordable social housing, child care programs, post-secondary education and training. It could boost wages, and support for refugees, aboriginal education and child welfare…”

And, “Campaign 2000 is calling on Ottawa to draft a national strategy to eliminate poverty, develop a long-term affordable housing plan and help build a national child-care system. It wants national child benefits for low-income families boosted from $3,654 to $5,400 annually per child and changes to personal taxes that reduce income inequality.”

In August 2010, the Council of Canadians endorsed MP Tony Martin’s Bill C-545, an Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada. The Toronto Star reported at that time, “Tony Martin’s bill would require the government to set out targets to reduce poverty in the short term (one to three years), medium term (four to seven years), and long term (eight years or more) and to appoint an independent ‘poverty elimination commissioner’ to hold it accountable.”

We call on the Harper government to not just apologize for offensive comments regarding child poverty, but to take the real action necessary to eliminate poverty in this country.