Canadian values include feeding the poor

Posted on December 19, 2013 in Inclusion Debates – Opinion/Editorials – After James Moore’s misstep, Harper should make poverty a top priority
December 18, 2013.   Editorial

An important lesson one learns in politics is to know when to stop talking. Federal Industry Minister James Moore, one of the bright lights in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet, let it slip from his mind this week when answering a radio reporter’s question about children in poverty, and ended up apologizing for remarks he probably didn’t intend to make.

Had he finished the interview with, “Empowering families with more power and resources so they can feed their own children is, I think, a good thing,” Moore would likely have emerged unscathed. Unfortunately, his lips kept moving after the brain had shut down, leading him to utter:

“Is it the government’s job — my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so,” followed by a weak laugh, as if to say, “just kidding, I don’t really mean that. For the love of God, please delete it.”

It didn’t take long before Moore’s let-them-eat-cake-moment became a top news story and a social media sensation.

Moore’s remark offended us not only because it sounded insensitive but because it does not represent Canadian values. Canadians, in fact, do think it’s our job to feed our neighbour’s child if that child is poor and hungry. It’s the reason we give money to charity, volunteer at the food bank and donate food, clothing and household items to families in need. We expect governments at all levels to use some of our tax dollars to help the most vulnerable, and to give us the means to individually and collectively to improve the lives of the disadvantaged.

The federal government recognizes that it has responsibility to help Canadians make those charitable contributions, which is why it provides tax incentives to do so. A donor can claim a tax credit of 15 per cent for donations up to $200, and 29 per cent for the balance of donations up to a maximum of 75 per cent of an individual’s net income.

But incentives to give to political parties leave charitable donations in the dust. The first $400 donated to a party or candidate attracts a credit of 75 per cent; then up to $750, 50 per cent; and finally up to $1,125, 33.3 per cent to a maximum credit of $650.

Wouldn’t a caring society design its incentives the other way around with tax credits for charitable donations exceeding those for political contributions? Would any political party or candidate be willing to suggest such a reordering of priorities?

At The Sun, we try to address the deleterious effects of poverty in part through our Adopt a School program, which enables schools to serve breakfast to their students. It’s heartbreaking to see children in our community coming to school hungry.

So, perhaps it’s not government’s job to serve kids breakfast, but it is its responsibility to ensure that our progressive tax system is fair, that people who work full time earn a living wage, that all Canadians have an equal opportunity to succeed, that other levels governments have sufficient funding to provide social assistance and that charitable organizations and the businesses and individuals who support them have the wherewithal to help families in need.

Certainly, Moore’s careless remark was not a reflection of the federal government’s policy on poverty. But now that a senior Cabinet minister has put the issue on the front page, it behooves the Harper government to address it with a greater sense of urgency.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 19th, 2013 at 9:45 am and is filed under Inclusion Debates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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