Hugh Segal and basic income

The Lindsay Advocate

The death of Hugh Segal a few weeks ago reminded the country there really did exist another breed of politician. The kind of politician who might carry a party label without carrying personal animosity in his heart toward those in other parties.

Segal was a true Progressive Conservative. He took his cues “not from the anger found in the dark divisiveness of the American or British right wings, but in the reform-minded and compassionate Toryism of another of his heroes, Benjamin Disraeli,” as columnist Art Milnes noted.

His death had reverberations in all three Ontario pilot sites, including Thunder Bay, Hamilton and Lindsay, since he was the architect of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot which he helped design at the request of the previous Ontario government. The retired senator was a lifelong proponent of a basic income – a policy that would ensure no one would ever drop below the poverty line, no matter life’s circumstances.

The Ontario pilot’s intent was to determine what would happen if a financial springboard existed for people in times of need.

When Premier Doug Ford ran for office in 2018, his campaign team made it clear that the innovative three-year pilot would be left alone so researchers could assess results. And yet in one of his first acts upon taking office, it was spiked.

One of the reasons for cancelling the pilot was ostensibly the cost of $50 million a year for the three years, Ford said. (To put this in perspective, Ford made $50 million available to faith-based and cultural organizations impacted by COVID.)

Segal was known as the happy warrior because he was an eternal optimist. But he was deeply embarrassed to be a Progressive Conservative after Ford’s decision to pull the rug out from thousands of people who were enrolled in the program.

While he did not see the eradication of poverty in his lifetime through a basic income, others continue to carry that torch and remember his dedication.