The Industry Minister should know better than to be so candid with a reporter. During a brief interview, James Moore started talking about who was responsible for addressing child poverty, and he pointed the finger at provincial governments. “We’re not going to usurp the province’s jurisdiction on that,” he said, sounding downright deferential. ”Empowering families with more power and resources so that they can feed their children is, I think, a good thing.” These statements, on their own, are straight out of the Tory playbook—nothing extraordinary, in the least.
Moore insisted that Canada has “never been wealthier,” and that everyone wants to “make sure that kids go to school full bellied.” But then he made a bad error; he asked a rhetorical question about the role of government. “Is that always the government’s job, to be there to serve people their breakfast?” Academically, that’s a fair question. Politically, it was foolish. And then, as if to drive the point home, he doubled down. “Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so,” Moore said, punctuating things with soft laughter.
Twitter erupted, as it does. Moore engaged in damage control, mostly dismissing that final quote as reported out of context. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But Moore’s spin was lost in the noise. Probably, no one noticed his tweet about the Canada-B.C. Social Housing Agreement, signed by the government just months after taking office, that Moore insisted has “yielded great results” in the province. No defence, short of recanting on that thing about leaving his neighbours’ kids to go hungry, would stop the bleeding.
But Moore didn’t take it back. And maybe this will show up in an attack ad some day. And maybe child-poverty activists have made an eternal enemy to be vanquished. But it probably stands to reason that, if they read into Moore’s voting record, those activists have scarier political foes than James Moore. Perhaps they’ll do their research.
UPDATE, 1:50 p.m.: Moore has apologized.
In response to a question from a reporter last week, I made an insensitive comment that I deeply regret. I apologize. Caring for each other is a Canadian ethic that I strongly believe in – always have and always will. Of course poverty is an issue that concerns me, and concerns all Canadians. All levels of government, indeed all members of our society, have a responsibility to be compassionate and care for those in need. Great work has been done to tackle poverty and the challenges associated with poverty. And while more work is needed, I know the cause of fighting poverty is not helped by comments like those I made last week. For that, I am sorry.
Zero: The number of MPs who voted against motions to eliminate child poverty in 1989 and 2009
“Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.” —Industry Minister James Moore
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