James Moore comment a modern Christmas Carol

Nick Moase
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Federal Industry Minister James Moore channeled Scrooge more than Santa last week, with his comment about feeding children not being his responsibility. Specifically, he was asked if there was a role for the federal government in helping British Columbia's struggle with child poverty. 

Editorial cartoon for Dec. 24.

His response? “Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.”

Whether it was out of frustration or off the cuff, it is particularly stinging this close to Christmas. Without thinking, he turned it into a modern day "A Christmas Carol."

In Charles Dickens' classic novel, Ebenezer Scrooge had an equally stinging remark for his overworked, underpaid clerk Bob Cratchit about giving him Christmas Day off calling it "a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December!"

It harkens to a type of libertarianism of "every person for himself" that seems to be favourited by some Conservative circles. It isn't a unique view among a few people either. It wasn't uncommon to find comments in support of Moore, with variations along the lines of "the poor shouldn't have children."

In the book, three spirits visit Scrooge, showing his past, present and future. He is held accountable for what he had done with his life, and how he treated others. By the end, finding out the horrifying way his future would go, Scrooge begs the spirits for forgiveness.

Much like Scrooge, Moore did later apologize for the comments in a very carefully prepared response that said, "All levels of government, indeed all members of our society, have a responsibility to be compassionate and care for those in need."

The apology, while appealing in that we get to watch a politician squirm, is probably the least important part of the story, both Moore's and Scrooge's. The government needs to be far more accountable than a simple apology offers. It is their actions that are far more important.

What would have given Minister Moore's comments more substance would be outlining how the government is helping the poor in our country. What programs are they working on? What are the goals?

Sadly, it seems his words were quite hollow.

The House of Commons passed a motion back in 1989 to end poverty by the year 2000. That was never met. It was renewed in 2009, but Child Poverty Watchdog Campaign 2000 says there has been little movement from Ottawa to help.

It's estimated about one in seven children are living below the poverty line. That rate is the third worst among 17 peer countries, only behind the USA and Italy. Those are not numbers to be proud of.

Scrooge on the other hand did take action with his apology. He sends a prize turkey to Cratchit's family, and gives him a raise. Filled with joy and love, he now treats everyone with kindness, generosity and compassion. Without this ending, the story would not have the impact it does.

Minister Moore has made his apology to the three spirits. In order for his story to have a proper conclusion, he needs to find his Cratchit. 

Organizations: House of Commons

Geographic location: Ottawa, USA, Italy

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