OTTAWA – Industry Minister James Moore has apologized for what he admits were insensitive comments about feeding hungry children.
“In response to a question from a reporter last week, I made an insensitive comment that I deeply regret. I apologize,” Moore said Monday in a statement posted on his website.
The minister reportedly told a Vancouver radio station that it was not his job to feed “my neighbour’s child.”
Moore was speaking about the state of child poverty, which has opened the Harper government up to broader criticism.
The NDP called Moore’s comments callous and heartless and demanded an apology.
The Liberals accused the government of failing hungry kids and poor families.
“During the holidays many of us are looking to help our neighbours and those in need,” NDP critic Jinny Sims said in a statement Monday. “For a Conservative minister to claim that child poverty isn’t his problem is heartless.
“Child poverty has continued to grow under this government and now they’re saying it’s not their problem.”
Ralph Goodale, the Liberal deputy leader, said Moore’s comments represented one more example of the “scorched-earth policies” of the Harper government.
“Ministers in the Harper cabinet last week tried to wash their hands of the searing statistic that one child in seven in Canada lives in poverty and goes to school every day on an empty stomach,” Goodale said in a statement.
“The Conservatives say that’s too bad, but it’s not their problem — despite two resolutions in Parliament in recent years calling for national action and federal leadership to tackle child poverty.”
Moore reportedly told Vancouver radio station News1130 that it was not up to the federal government to ensure children had enough to eat.
“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?” he was quoted as saying.
“Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so,” he said.
Initially, Moore appeared to distance himself from the remarks, which set off a wave of criticism on social media.
But on Monday, he issued a statement that backtracked categorically.
“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,” he said.
Moore said that “all levels of government, indeed all members of our society” need to show compassion 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.”