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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Bootstraps Need Boots

One Tory’s Lonely Fight to End Poverty in Canada

Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Bootstraps Need Boots

One Tory’s Lonely Fight to End Poverty in Canada

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 always promoted policies, especially a basic annual income, to help the most economically vulnerable. Why would a life-long Tory support something so radical? In this revealing memoir, Segal shares how his life and experiences brought him to this most unlikely of places, beginning with his childhood in a poor immigrant family in Montreal to his time as a chief of staff for Prime Minister Mulroney and to his more recent work as an advisor on a basic income pilot project for the Ontario Liberal government. This book is a passionate argument not only for why a basic annual income makes economic sense, but for why it is the right thing to do.

216 pages


After a lifetime in Progressive Conservative politics, Hugh Segal was known as a ‘Happy Warrior’ because of his legendary optimism and the generosity of his vision for Canada and for the under-privileged in our society. I have known Hugh extremely well for over forty years and I can say without hesitation that I have never met a more principled, thoughtful, and effective practitioner of the political arts in this splendid country of ours.

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

In a future where artificial intelligence may change the very nature of work, drastically affecting employment, few ideas are more worthy of study than a guaranteed annual income. And no one is better qualified than Hugh Segal to assess the pros and cons, both because of his wide experience in public policy and his specific knowledge of the Ontario Basic Income plan.

Tom Axworthy, Secretary General of the InterAction Council

Table of Contents

Foreword by Andrew Coyne


1 The Cheery Edge of Poverty

2 The Missing Toy Box

3 Happiness, Anger, Religion, and Hockey

4 A Special Assembly at School

5 Starting the Political Voyage

6 Clear Choices Emerge

7 Policy Linkages and a New Idea

8 Sinews of Impunity

9 Learning from the Best

10 On the Davis Team

11 From Public to Private and Back

12 Learning from Mulroney

13 The Battle in the Senate

14 Testing a Better Way

15 Courage and Fairness Matter

Appendix; Selected Bibliography; Index

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