Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Biography & Autobiography Political

Bootstraps Need Boots

One Tory’s Lonely Fight to End Poverty in Canada

by (author) Hugh Segal

UBC Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2019
Political, Canadian, Social Policy
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2019
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2019
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2020
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


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.

About the author

HUGH SEGAL is a Senior Fellow at the Queen’s School of Policy Studies. Between 1999 and 2006, he was president of the Institute for Research on Public Policy in Montreal. He is a former chief of staff to the prime minister of Canada, and associate secretary of cabinet in the Ontario government. A graduate of the University of Ottawa, he holds an honorary doctorate of laws from the Royal Military College, Kingston. He has authored, co-authored and edited six books on politics and public policy, including No Surrender, Beyond Greed: Confronting the Neo Conservative Excess, In Defence of Civility and Geopolitical Integrity. In September 2005, he was sworn into the Senate as a Conservative, having been appointed by prime minister Paul Martin. He was active in the 2006 election, visiting ridings across Canada on behalf of the Conservative Party. A member of various corporate and not-for-profit boards, he has served on the National Finance, Agriculture and Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate. Hugh Segal lives in Kingston, Ontario.

Hugh Segal's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Boot Straps Need Boots is a great Canadian memoir of a poignant Canadian experience recognizable to millions. And it is more than that. Segal recalls as a 12-year old the day Prime Minister Diefenbaker spoke to his school assembly. Diefenbaker had a way of mesmerizing schoolchildren. “The family table we call Canada is the finest table in the world,” said the Prime Minister. “There is space and food for all.” Here Segal comes to the point of Boot Straps, a plain argument for a national guaranteed income program.

Blacklock's Reporter

Segal’s book reflects the author’s deep understanding of his country. He has travelled widely, especially during his Senate years, talking to hundreds of people who share with him a lived experience of poverty. He lucidly explains the hardwired link between poverty and spiralling health-care costs. Cutting the first will mean dramatic reductions in the latter.

The Kingston Whig-Standard

Other titles by Hugh Segal