Conservative MP Gerald Keddy is apologizing for referring to some unemployed Haligonians as "no-good bastards."
Keddy, MP for the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore-St. Margaret's, issued a statement Tuesday saying he was sorry for the "insensitive comments."
"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," he said.
Later Tuesday, Keddy stood in the House of Commons and once again expressed his regret.
"I apologize to anyone who was offended by my remarks," he said.
New Democrat MP Peter Stoffer told CBC News that Keddy should resign from his position as parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade.
Gerald Keddy's statement:
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.
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.
What I should have said is that many small businesses in Nova Scotia, and indeed across Canada, such as market garden operations, rely on foreign workers due to labour shortages, and without these valuable workers many of these businesses would suffer.
Our Conservative Government is committed to ensuring Canadians have access to jobs. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is a last resort for employers who must prove they have made significant efforts to first recruit and hire Canadians and then show that none were willing or able, to fill the positions.
I would also like to point out that all foreign workers in Canada have the same legal rights and protections as their Canadian counterparts and recent improvements announced by the Minister of Immigration ensure Temporary Foreign Workers are protected.
Again, I apologize for my comments and any hurt they may have caused.
"If I may be completely frank, his comments really, really threw me for a loop," said Stoffer. "They upset me because of the fact that that's not the situation at all.
"I'm glad that he apologized, but the reality is he is a parliamentary secretary … and those types of remarks deserves a resignation. A resignation of his position as PS to the minister."
In an interview with a local newspaper, Keddy suggested that farmers in the province need migrant labourers because unemployed Nova Scotians don't want the work.
"All those no-good bastards sitting on the sidewalk in Halifax that can't get work," Tuesday's Chronicle Herald quotes Keddy as saying.
In his statement, Keddy said what he meant to say is that many small businesses rely on foreign workers due to labour shortages, "and without these valuable workers many of these businesses would suffer."
Rick Smith, a panhandler in Halifax, said people have different reasons for not being able to find work.
"I don't appreciate somebody not knowing me calling me a lazy bum," he said.
Referring to Keddy's statement of "no-good bastards," Smith said, "That's what I think he is."
Disabled man offended
Another panhandler, Fred Downey, said he has schizophrenia and cannot find work.
In Ottawa, Keddy's opponents defended people like Downey.
"He's attacking the homeless, many of whom suffer from mental health issues," said Liberal MP Scott Brison.
"I think the problem with the Conservative Party is that 90 per cent give the other 10 per cent a bad name," Brison said later. "When they actually start talking, when they actually are unmuzzled, they say what's really on their minds.
"This new Conservative Party has a deep vein of meanness to it. It's a party that kicks people when they're down, and instead of helping the vulnerable who need the help, chooses to attack them. And that's the kind of meanness that is very un-Canadian."
Earlier Tuesday, fellow Nova Scotia MP Michael Savage, the federal Liberal human resources critic, called for Keddy to apologize.
Savage said Keddy's comments to the newspaper were particularly offensive given that Tuesday is the 20th anniversary of a Commons resolution to end child poverty.