Gerald Keddy's remarks yesterday, calling the unemployed and homeless "no-good bastards', actually speaks to a much larger problem, and one that will not be addressed with the Reform Conservatives. It's their belief that anyone down on their luck is that way because of their own lack of determination.
Stephen Harper once stated that we shouldn't feel sorry for the unemployed in this country, because they don't feel sorry for themselves, as long as they can sit at home drawing generous benefits. Mike Harris called them "welfare bums", and Jim Flaherty wanted to put the homeless in jail, as if being poor is a criminal offense.
I find it alarming when I see the projects that received the stimulus funding. 4 million dollars for a library for a private religious school, $ 500,000.00 for an indoor soccer field for another. And countless rink upgrades. Those are things you invest in when times are good, but we needed a legitimate attempt at job creation, and that simply didn't happen.
Billions of dollars wasted, and yet the Ref-Cons still demanded that municipalities put up signs, promoting the party; before they could would get a dime. Between $ 4,000 and $ 7,000 each. Many simply couldn't afford it.
Canada needs a national housing strategy. We need a minimum wage and we need a guaranteed income, so that all citizens can benefit from our vast natural resources, not just a chosen few.
And Gerald Keddy needs to be fired. This was completely unacceptable.
HALIFAX, N.S. — A Nova Scotia Conservative MP who stunned the opposition and advocates for the homeless after referring to the unemployed in Halifax as "no-good bastards" apologized Tuesday for the comments.
In a statement, Gerald Keddy said he did not mean to offend Nova Scotians who are out of work.
"I would like to offer a sincere apology for remarks I made regarding the unemployed in Halifax. These comments were insensitive, and for that I am truly sorry," he said.
"In no way did I mean to offend those who have lost their job due to the global recession, nor did I mean to suggest that anyone who is unemployed is not actively looking for employment."
Keddy, the parliamentary secretary for the minister of international trade, was quoted in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Tuesday as saying some farm operators hire migrant labourers because Nova Scotians won't do the work.
Keddy, who represents the riding of South Shore-St. Margaret's, then referred to unemployed Haligonians as "all those no-good bastards sitting on the sidewalk in Halifax that can't get work."
Michael Savage, the federal Liberal human resources critic, said the comments were particularly shocking given that they came on the 20th anniversary of an all-party House of Commons resolution to end child poverty.
"It indicates a real callous attitude toward our fellow Canadians who are most in need," Savage, who represents another Nova Scotia riding, said from Ottawa. "It's just completely unacceptable."
In the article, Keddy said some farm operators need to look to places like Mexico for seasonal workers because local labourers aren't interested in the work.
He was quoted as saying apple and other produce operations in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley have become so reliant on foreign workers that they would have to shut down if they couldn't use them.
Wayne MacNaughton, an anti-poverty advocate in Halifax, said Keddy's comments about the unemployed in Halifax reflect an ignorance about homelessness.
"I find they're very insulting and very uninformed," he said.
"It's a very broad generalization and I doubt that Mr. Keddy has spent any time talking to people on the street to find out what's going on."
MacNaughton said many of the people now without housing have physical or mental disabilities that make employment difficult if not impossible. "Some of the people with disabilities would not be able to do this work," he said.
John Hartling of Community Action on Homelessness in Halifax said the remarks reinforce a stereotype about the homeless that they are simply shiftless and don't want to work.
He estimated last year there were more than 1,200 people living on the street or using the services of a shelter in the city, adding that the majority had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
"To say that homeless people are just bums that are lazy and can't get off their butts to do anything is pretty offensive," he said. "There are a lot of things homeless people are dealing with in their lives."
Keddy's comments came on the same day Statistics Canada released data showing the number of Canadians collecting employment insurance rose by 54,300, or 7.1 per cent in September, after two months of declines.
This is the second controversy in two months involving the Tory politician. He was pictured last month presenting two separate mock federal stimulus cheques bearing the Conservative party logo, a flagrant breach of government rules under the Federal Identity Program.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Keddy acknowledged it was a mistake and wouldn't repeat it.
Jim Bickerton, a political science professor at St. Francis Xavier University, said the latest controversy might cause future headaches for Keddy, who didn't have large victory margins in the last few federal elections. "He hasn't gotten a safe sinecure there," he said.
"His election victories are not big ones. So it could well be his political downfall in the sense that it swings enough borderline votes against him next time around."
Megan Leslie, the NDP MP for Halifax, said the reference to the unemployed shows more about the Conservatives than Keddy alone. "They do think that people are staying home on EI making buckets of money and don't want to work," she said.
"This isn't just about Gerald Keddy. I think the prime minister is going to have trouble convincing people that he doesn't endorse Gerald Keddy's remarks."