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

Jamie Swift

What happens when we’re young shapes us for life.

That seems obvious, but it’s worth keeping in mind, particularly when we ponder the stubborn persistence of poverty in one of the world’s richest countries.

Hugh Segal — former senator, longtime professor, lifetime politico — was born in Montreal in 1950, an “edge-of-poverty working class kid,” as he refers to his upbringing in the book.

One frigid winter day in the 1950s, his oft-unemployed cab-driver dad gave young Hugh’s treasured wooden toy box to a neighbour living in the same triplex. The man didn’t have the money to fuel his furnace. Young Hugh resented this act of charity. He would later come to understand that there were people poorer than the Segals.

His family scraped by, navigating setbacks familiar to people living with less. The events seared themselves into his consciousness.

“A bailiff arriving to seize your dad’s car and empty the house of furniture is not something that fades into distant memory. It stays with you, like a dark spot at the edge of a slice of bread,” he reflects.   

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Eleven Nobel Laureates Who Have Endorsed Universal Basic Income

The idea of an unconditional basic income (UBI) floor where everyone starts with the same minimum amount of money as everyone else each month as an economic right of citizenship is not a new idea. UBI is an idea with a long history and thus a long history of support.

Among that support exists a number of Nobel prize winners.

The following is a compilation of some of those names and what they've said about UBI in recent years.

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A charity dropped a massive stimulus package on rural Kenya — and transformed the economy


For about a decade now, the charity GiveDirectly has been distributing cash straight to poor residents in sub-Saharan Africa, starting in Kenya and expanding later to Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Morocco.

The organization was founded by economists, and has been studying the impact of its programs from the get-go. But the research has focused narrowly on recipients: Were they better off, the same, or worse off than people not getting cash?

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Join Toronto for the largest ever march for basic income

Lindsay Advocate

Canadians are marching for Universal Basic Income on Oct. 26 as Toronto and cities around the world join forces – and it won’t be just Toronto, as people from former pilot centres Lindsay, Hamilton, Thunder Bay and other areas will also be taking part.

The event will be held in front of the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park, from where participants will march and hear from champions of a universal basic income in Canada.

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Westcott fighting for return of basic income guarantee

Thunder Bay Newswatch

Ruth Westcott says Ontario’s now-cancelled basic income pilot project changed her life.

It’s why she’s helping to lead a grassroots effort to ensure the program is available not only in Ontario again, but across the country.

Lifting people out of poverty must become a national priority, she said, speaking at city hall on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

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Time for a National Basic Income

Raise the Hammer

Brian Russell had $40 left in his pocket when he was one of 4,000 people selected for Ontario's basic income pilot project. "Your life is better," he says. "I had better food and money to travel around the city. My life was more stable and secure."

For Joan Frame, basic income payments from the province meant she no longer had to borrow from friends to make it through the last few days of the month. Frame says she was always juggling bills and that basic income gave her back power over her life.

"I don't know if you've ever been in a situation where you need to ask for money, but it is impossibly difficult," she says. "It was the worst part about being on any kind of assistance for me."

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Basic income project benefitted thousands


Everything in Ruth Westcott’s life changed for the better when she became part of Ontario’s basic income pilot project.

The Thunder Bay woman had been on social assistance for nearly 30 years, but once she came out of the now-cancelled pilot project, her health improved dramatically and she became well enough to work.

“Just like everyone else I know on social assistance, I was getting sicker and sicker and more and more disabled the deeper and deeper my poverty was getting,” she said.

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