Book Review: Bootstraps Need Boots

Reviewed by Chloe Halpenny

As a leftie and basic income supporter, I began Hugh Segal’s Bootstraps Need Boots skeptical and curious. In this memoir-meets- case for basic income, the former Senator brings his personal and political experiences into the conversation, resulting in a read that is both enjoyable and informative.

Opening with an anecdote about his cherished childhood toy box being donated to a neighbour by his father for firewood, Segal leaves readers doubtless that his fight against poverty is a sincere one. Here enters basic income, an idea supported by the author due to his desire not to address the symptoms of poverty, but rather the cause: a lack of money.

Resurfacing throughout the book, basic income captures Segal’s imagination from his time at university at a PC Party conference until the book’s conclusion, where he reflects—mournfully—on the Ford government’s premature cancellation of the Ontario pilot. In this way, readers get the sense that the book isn’t merely a rallying call for basic income, but also one against the hyper-partisan politics that impede change.

Bootstraps Need Boots may not be for everyone. It’s best read with some background on poverty, basic income, and Canadian politics. Moreover, it requires a certain level of comfort with disagreeing, be it on political ideology or the best tools to combat poverty. For those who do crack the cover, Segal presents a book of bridges: between autobiography and policy, left and right, and frustration and hope.

One thing is for sure: the book has heart.

Bootstraps Need Boots: One Tory’s Lonely Fight to End Poverty in Canada

By Hugh Segal
On Point Press, 2019

Author

  • Chloe Halpenny is a researcher at the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation and co-chair of the Basic Income Canada Youth Network.

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