Hugh Segal’s Bootstraps Need Boots

Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2019

In Bootstraps Need Boots: One Tory’s Lonely Fight to End Poverty in Canada by Hugh Segal he writes that “poverty is sadly an accurate and almost perfect predictor of poor health, low educational achievement for families, increased substance abuse, early need for hospital care, and unconstructive engagement with the law and the judicial system, costing Canada billions of dollars every year.” The resolve to reducing poverty for Segal is a basic annual income for all Canadians because it makes economic sense and it is the right thing to do. 

Now that the madness of the election cycle is over, where one of the biggest issues for Canadians was affordability, it is time for Hugh Segal’s voice: a Tory who has throughout his life and career advocated for progressive policies for the poor. As the new minority government must reach across the aisle for consensus, Bootstraps Need Boots presents a way forward for non-partisan action on addressing inequality in this country.

For more than four decades, Hugh Segal has been one of the leading voices of progressive conservatism in Canada. A self-described Red Tory warrior who disdains “bootstrap” approaches to poverty, he has worked tirelessly to bring about policies that support the most economically vulnerable in society. Central to his life's work has been the championing of a basic annual income for all Canadians, arguing that not to do so borders on the criminal. 

Why would a lifelong Tory support something so radical? In this revealing memoir, Segal shares how his life and experiences brought him to this most unlikely of places. He recalls a childhood growing up in a poor immigrant family in working-class Montreal and how the events during his formative years made him aware of the blighting effects of poverty. He also recollects how connections with people like his grandfather Ben Segal, a Russian immigrant and union organizer, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, and folksinger Joan Baez shaped his worldview.


“Part memoir; part historical narrative, and part call to action, Bootstraps Need Boots is a must-read for anyone committed to tackling and ending poverty in Canada, regardless of their political stripe or affiliation.”

Jerry Dias, Unifor National President


In the spring of 2016, a three-year basic income pilot program was budgeted under former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and launched in March 2017. It involved four thousand participants “replacing their welfare and disability support with an automatic cash top-up tied to income.”  The empirical data from the pilot project would have been the proof needed to help make the case for a nation-wide program, but it was cancelled in July 2018 by the newly elected Premier, Doug Ford, who claimed it was unaffordable. 

Not one to give up, Segal’s anti-poverty crusade lives on in Bootstraps Needs Boots where he presents a frank and passionate argument for the importance of a basic annual income.   


“After a lifetime in Progressive Conservative politics, Hugh Segal was known as a ‘Happy Warrior.’ That is because of his legendary optimism and the generosity of his vision for Canada and for the under-privileged in our society.”

The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, 18th Prime Minister of Canada


“Hugh Segal has long championed the cause and his book is a vital contribution to an important debate.”

The Honourable Bob Rae, 21st Premier of Ontario and Senior Fellow at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights


For a review copy, in print or digital format, permission to excerpt, or to arrange an interview with Hugh Segal please contact Kerry Kilmartin at or 604-822-8244. 

Posted by Megan M.
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