Need Help?

Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

See my work on Pinterest at Garden Guru Montreal

Entries in poverty (1)


Sidetracked from Garden Blogging by a Health Care System

The posting of a garden related article has been delayed because I am preoccupied caring for my 96 year old mother in law. I’ve been spending a lot of time at the hospital where she was admitted for tests because she experienced atypical symptoms related to the flu.

I was not permitted to accompany her into the ER, nor was I allowed to visit until 8 hours later. The ER was overcrowded and there was no room for relatives. At night, my wife and I gained entry because a kind nurse’s aide snuck us through a secondary entrance. That is when I learned that only half of the tests had been done. I also noticed that each cubicle, built to hold one bed, contained two. Doctors and nurses were not at their usual posts. Most staff had been in the trauma room all day long and no one knew when they would return. It was the first of the month and the emergency room is always severely overloaded on that date. It would take twenty-four hours after being admitted for my M I L to be finally diagnosed with the flu.

The first of the month is a serious matter in our society. That’s when welfare cheques are delivered to qualifying recipients. After paying rent, because no one can survive by living on the streets in our climate, the balance is spent unwisely by just enough people to clog up the medical system.  Many purchase alcohol, place themselves in physical danger, and land up in the trauma department of the ER. According to the nursing staff, it is a regular monthly occurrence.

The culture of poverty has been with us since the beginning of civilization and is unlikely ever to disappear. No amount of education or training can overcome the mindset of those who believe that there is nothing in life worth striving for. The welfare cheque came into existence, not only to shield such people, but also to help those that experience reversals of fortune. It acts as a social safety net to protect the unlucky ones. Up until 15 years ago, it also removed the incentive for some unambitious people to find work. However, since that time, governments became wiser and now restrict benefits to those with real needs. It is also an expensive program and that explains why new immigrants must wait 3 years before they can qualify for it.

In Canada, we are the beneficiaries of a legislated heath care program that works well most of the time. However, it is so costly that the government, the only HMO allowed by law, must keep a tight rein on expenses. Consequently, there are serious shortages of doctors and nurses. On one hand, the program is a bottomless money pit because health care is astronomically expensive and, on the other hand, not having it is unthinkable in our social liberal democracy. Even the most conservative politicians here recognize that health care is a basic human right for all citizens.

To protect the unfortunate from suffering is a humanitarian gesture. However, the welfare cheque is costly and the consequence of self-destructive behavior adds additional expenses. In spite of the price tag, most industrial societies choose this scenario deliberately. If we didn’t take care of the less fortunate, some fear that we might create mobs of disenchanted people, easily mobilized by rabble rousers for unwelcome causes. The result might be anarchy, insurgency, or the destruction of private property.

In the early part of the 20th century, many feared that poverty would invite Marxism or communism. Some still hold to that opinion. How ironic that a well functioning capitalist society, in order to protect the status quo, must rely on welfare, one of the purest forms of socialism. Others will argue that it is charity, a noble form of human behavior. I tend to agree with this last opinion because we, as a society, are judged by how we treat the less fortunate among us, no matter who they are.