Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tom Mulcair could learn a thing or two from former Ontario Premier Bob Rae

By Fraser Needham 

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has been many things during this campaign.

He has been Tom the defender of small business who will cut small business taxes. He has been Tom the leader who will balance all budgets come hell or high water, recession or surplus.

Tom the hardworking guy from a family of 10 who put himself through school, which means don’t expect the NDP to do anything about skyrocketing post-secondary tuition rates for our young people.

And, he has been Tom who thinks taxing the very wealthy is a bad idea.

One thing he has not been is Tom the social democratic leader who will stop Canada’s 20-year path down the road of economic neo-liberalism and austerity. The rhetoric from the NDP during this long campaign has of course been deafening and, more often that not, it appears the public is tuning out as the party starts to slip in the polls.

On Monday, Mulcair took the level of debate in this campaign yet one notch lower by taking a swipe at Ontario’s first and, to date, only NDP premier Bob Rae. Did the Federal NDP leader attack Rae for failing to deliver public auto insurance, breaking a collective agreement with public sector unions and instituting “Rae Days”, or for at times isolating himself from both his caucus and party base during his term from 1990-95?

Of course not. Mulcair attacked Bob Rae for having the audacity to run deficits in perhaps the worst recession in post -war Ontario history instead of cutting services and fighting that recession on the backs of working people.

The NDP Leader has taken a lot of heat, and rightly so, from all sides in this campaign ever since he made the ill-advised pledge to balance every single budget in the first term of his party’s government without raising taxes significantly, regardless of the state of economy. And the heat was on once again Monday night during the Munk debates. So, Mulcair chose to take his frustrations out on an all too familiar political punching bag – the short-lived Ontario NDP government!

Now Bob Rae certainly has his critics as well as his defenders. And, some could rightly accuse the former Ontario premier of being somewhat politically misguided at times. For example, Rae may have been wiser to take a quiet academic posting at a university somewhere rather than deciding to come out of political retirement and make a bid for the Liberal Party leadership ten years ago.

However, one thing Rae has never been questioned for is his integrity or commitment to public service – agree or disagree with him. Further, Bob Rae has always tried to conduct himself with a certain degree of decorum in the public arena and refrained from political cheap shots. The same cannot be said of the current NDP Leader and not surprisingly Rae immediately took to Twitter to give Mulcair a good thrashing after the political insult was unleashed.

It actually wasn’t all that long ago that the NDP used to be about doing things – social democratic things. Sure, the party wanted to get elected but it wanted to do so in order to implement social democratic policy.

Unfortunately, it now appears those days are gone for good. Today’s NDP has learned the trick that if you promise next to nothing or no change during an election campaign, then maybe the public will expect very little of the party if it happens to get elected to government. This strategy failed miserably in the recent B.C. and Ontario election campaigns and for the one-term Dexter NDP government in Nova Scotia -- but that hasn’t stopped the federal party from trying it again in this election.  

Hence, always stay on the attack against your opponents, misconstrue facts, numbers and history (Tommy Douglas anyone?) and never, ever promise to really do anything – at least anything social democratic anyway. And always remember, no political low blow is too low as long as it may get you some sort of advantage over your opponent.

Did Bob Rae’s Ontario NDP government fail? In many ways, yes it did. However, did Rae try to do what he felt was right during very difficult economic circumstances and did he put in place some social democratic policies during his five years as premier? Yes he did.

The truly unprincipled intentions of Thomas Mulcair and those surrounding him have been on full display during this election campaign. The group of them could learn a thing or two about the right way to do politics from Bob Rae.

Fraser Needham is a freelance journalist living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He has been working and writing in Saskatchewan for the past 15 years. Aside from the Saskatchewan CCF/NDP, he follows Aboriginal issues and politics closely.

See also: Tom Mulcair, Bob Rae and balanced budgets

See also: The NDP's phony “credit card” analogy: a neoliberal conception of the public household

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Could you fill me in on the 20th century and other follies from week eight of the 2015 election -- A Left Chapter round-up

This is the eighth installment of our weekly election round-up of the inane, bizarre, humorous and unusually facile in the great show that is mainstream bourgeois politics in the EPIC election of 2015.

1) I am just the vice-chair of the school board...that doesn't mean I have the faintest clue about anything

We have all by now heard about this one...and, of course, despite thinking the election could not possibly have a low moment that could surpass the video footage of a Conservative candidate pissing in someone's coffee mug, it has.

First penis jokes about a death camp...and then the claim that she had never heard of the best known symbol of 20th century evil and the Holocaust. Either this is the dumbest lie of all time or it is just staggeringly, mindbogglingly dumb.

What to say? How did she manage to get a degree in anything while being ignorant enough to have never heard of Auschwitz? How can she, given this, be part of running a school board?

And, frankly, given that they have dismissed candidates for far, far, far less, why is she still running for the NDP at all? Guess it is, as always, who you know.

2) was not a total was a "mistake"!

So....Laureen Harper and some other Conservative tool decide to hold a press conference saying that if re-elected the Conservatives will throw a whole bunch of matching funds at the Terry Fox Foundation...and that the foundation  and Fox family are all "enthusiastic" about it!

Except that that was a total...ummm..."mistake". 

Turns out the family and foundation was rather the opposite of "enthusiastic", knew nothing about it and wanted no part of it.

Perhaps the Conservatives were simply aiming at know, the irony of attempting to make a charity's work political after going after charities for years for being remotely political.

3) I just wanted to prove I was there goddammit! 

What do you do if you really, truly, desperately want to use a photo of yourself at an event but the sign in the background inconveniently has some other candidate's name on it? just change the photo! You know, like Stalin would!

4) Some morning bullshit on the Bow River

Ok...technically this is from week seven...but the Liberals, in their infinite wisdom, sent it out to their email list in week eight in case, you know, you had missed it. Which I had.

Thanks for sending it folks...because it is both hilarious and nausea inducing.

5) It is all your fault for recording me.

This guy! This guy opposes gay marriage. This guy opposes abortion rights. This guy said so on the phone a few days ago. This guy said he would try to make Tom Mulcair think this way too. Because this guy is an NDP candidate!

And this guy remains an NDP candidate!

Good times.

Thus ends our eighth look at the Grand Farce. See you next week!

Got any suggestions for next week's round-up...send them to or post them to our Facebook page!

See also: Somebody's watching you and other follies from week seven of the 2015 election -- A Left Chapter round-up

See also: The wheels come off the bus and other follies of week six of the 2015 election -- A Left Chapter round-up

An NDP and Liberal merger is now inevitable

By Fraser Needham

The NDP and Liberals will merge and it will happen sooner rather than later.

This may seem like a strange thing to say. After all, both parties have a long history in Canadian politics. The Liberals have been around since before Confederation and the NDP’s forerunner, the CCF, got its start in the Dirty 1930’s of the Great Depression.

Furthermore, both parties continue to be relatively vibrant within today’s political spectrum as can be seen in the current Canadian federal election where both the NDP and Liberals are polling at about 30 per cent. Both parties also have very committed partisans with a long history of disliking each other.

So why would they merge?

In order to understand why this will happen, it is necessary to look at Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.

Since the Reform Party arose on the Canadian political scene in the early 1990’s, Harper and his neoconservative colleagues have succeeded in moving a significant proportion of the electorate to the hard right over the past two decades. Many political observers initially viewed the neocons as little more than another Western protest party but they were wrong. This movement continued to gain steam through its various iterations – first the Reform Party, then the Canadian Alliance and finally the takeover of the Progressive Conservatives and the formation of the Conservative Party of Canada in late 2003.

Along the way, the neoconservatives have never strayed from their core values and have now moved about 30 per cent of the population to their way of thinking. This includes support for a militaristic state in foreign affairs, tough on crime policies, reduced civil liberties in favour of unnecessary anti-terrorism legislation, distrust of any sort of arms length independent agencies such as the judiciary and dislike of what are perceived elites including the media, the arts and academia.

At the same time, Harper has taken the country further down the neoliberal economic path, started by the previous Liberal governments, of corporate, income and consumer tax cuts combined with a reduced role for the state. And along the way, the Conservatives have won two minorities and one majority government and are well positioned to win another minority in this election.

As has also been seen during this election, Harper’s bloc of support will stick with the Conservatives through thick and thin. Whether it is the various Senate scandals including the Mike Duffy trial, poor treatment of war veterans, successive budget deficits, abusing the rules of parliament or Canada’s reduced role in the United Nations, this bloc of support appears to be immovable.

In fact, at various Conservative media scrums in this campaign, Harper supporters have gone so far as to verbally abuse reporters for asking the “wrong types” of questions.

Although the Liberals were elected on a moderately progressive platform in 1993, they then proceeded to move Canada far down the path of economic neoliberalism while remaining a relatively socially liberal party. The 13 years of Chretien/Martin governments are known for eliminating deficits, offloading services on provinces and cutting taxes rather than innovation in or even maintenance of social programs.

During this time, the Liberals relied on a very shaky base of winning almost every seat in Ontario and enough seats in Quebec to maintain power. However, Conservative inroads in Ontario, reduced fortunes in Quebec because of the sponsorship scandal and continued leadership infighting marked the end of the Liberal reign in 2006.

After spending most of the 1990’s and the early part of the millennium in the political wilderness, the NDP began to reemerge at the same time the political fortunes of the Liberals began to fall. Under new leader Jack Layton, the NDP picked up seats in the 2004, 2006, and 2008 elections. And in the 2011 election, the party made a major breakthrough winning enough seats to form official opposition for the first time.

The NDP surge over the past decade is the result of a few things. A lot of it had to do with the personal charisma and organizational skills of the late Jack Layton. Not only did Layton’s high energy style bring a new media savvy to the party, these organizational skills brought a lot of money into NDP coffers and put the party back on stable financial footing. And because of Layton’s popularity in Quebec, the NDP was able to capitalize in this province when the Bloc Quebecois collapsed in 2011.

But a lot of the NDP’s surge has been as a result of the sheer dysfunction of the Liberal Party during the same period. In Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, the party experienced perhaps the two worst leaders in its history. Neither the party nor the Liberals’ traditional electoral base ever really united behind either of them and the party simply was not a factor in the 2008 or 2011 campaigns.

So by default, in provinces such as Ontario, B.C. and the Maritimes, the NDP began to pick up seats at the Liberals’ expense. Some traditional Liberal voters were indeed peeled away by the Conservatives in these provinces but at the same time soft progressives who had almost always voted Liberal began to vote NDP.

As the NDP began to rise the party also started to move to the right in its 2006, 2008 and 2011 election platforms. Clearly the thinking by those running the party is that by jettisoning most of its social democratic values and embracing free market fundamentals, the NDP has made itself much more credible to the right wing press and center-right voters – the area where they believe there is true room for growth.

Many of these key NDP advisors would argue the gains made in these elections are as much a result of what they would call a more “modern” or “realistic” approach to 21st century policy (translate: more right wing) as they were due to Jack Layton and Liberal dysfunction. Hence, they believe that they can continue to make gains and even form government under a new leader as long as they continue down the path of a rightward shift.

And there is some evidence that appears to validate this theory. After sitting at around 20 per cent in the polls during most of Thomas Mulcair’s first three years as leader, the NDP rebounded strongly this spring as a result of its principled stance against Bill C-51 and the Liberals’ gaffe in supporting the Harper government’s flawed anti-terrorism legislation. Also, the party’s numbers in Quebec have held well since the 2011 breakthrough and these numbers continue to hold during this election campaign. Further, hovering at around 30 per cent in the polls so far and in a virtual tie with both the Conservatives and Liberals, the NDP still has a good shot at forming government or at least improving the party’s seat count.

So, although NDP strategists are likely somewhat disappointed with how the campaign has gone thus far and would prefer to at least be building a bit of a larger lead over the Liberals, there is no doubt they see no reason to alter the course of the party’s rightward shift with the ultimate goal of replacing the Liberals as the only serious alternative to the Harper Conservatives.

However, there is substantial reason to believe that the NDP’s rightward shift was the wrong way to go and will now lead to the party’s ultimate demise – sooner rather than later.

If those leading the NDP had been able to think more clearly about what would be the best strategy to maintain itself as a social democratic party and position it as the party to replace the Liberals in the near future, they would not have started the rightward shift that began in 2006. With the Harper Conservatives moving to polarize one part of the political spectrum on the right, the NDP would have been far wiser to try to polarize the other part by moving left.

In fact, there are good reasons to believe soft progressives who had steadfastly supported the Liberals through three elections were starting to tire of the party by 2004 after ten years of neoliberalism and austerity. Where the Liberals had once relied on the convenient excuse of not being able to deliver on their social promises because of the harsh recession of the early 1990’s, this was no longer the case at the beginning of the new millennium.

When Jack Layton and the NDP chose to prop up the minority Liberal government in 2005 in exchange for reversing some tax cuts and further protection against privatization of Medicare, it was a very smart move to do so. Further, when the NDP voted down the government and helped force an election after the Liberals failed to deliver on their health care promises, they were also right to do so.

However, by moving the party steadily to the right over the past ten years since then, there is no end game. Had the NDP started to shift left and created a more polarized political atmosphere, it would have really put the Liberals in trouble and perhaps put the party into the final political wilderness from which it would have never returned – similar to what happened to British Liberal Party in the 1930’s. Because of the Liberals’ dysfunction, the NDP would have still gained the same progressive voters they picked up during the last decade but would have done it on a left platform. And, by sticking to their core social democratic principles, the NDP could have been successful in moving a portion of the electorate left and more in tune with the party’s traditional beliefs.

Further, the NDP would have by no means needed to shift radically left but could have done so on a gradual basis. Essentially, all the NDP would have needed to do is call for reasonable measures that would have begun to rebuild the Canadian welfare state back up to what it used to be. Measures such as more progressive income taxes, a steady stream of corporate tax increases with the goal of returning to rates similar to those of other G7 countries, increased funding and a federal role in provincial social programs, greater funding of post-secondary education and a call for a cross-Canada tuition freeze, a willingness to open up the free trade agreement and examine and potentially change the parts that are not working, less dependence on trade with the U.S. and greater trade relations with Europe,  a plan to help institute public auto insurance in all provinces, a plan to work with the provinces to set a living wage, getting the country’s climate change program back on track and other policy moves along these lines.

Sadly this did not happen and the NDP has now shifted so far right that the party is virtually identical to the Liberals. It is so obvious that only the most hardcore and committed partisans within each of the parties can see any difference between the two anymore.

Take for instance the platforms the NDP and Liberals are running on in this election campaign. The NDP wants to institute a meaningless two per cent corporate tax increase but refuses to increase taxes on the very wealthy. The Liberals are willing to raise taxes on the very wealthy by a meaningless one per cent but refuse to increase the corporate tax rate.

The Liberals are willing to run deficits to invest in infrastructure and job creation but it appears highly unlikely they would be able to do this based on the numbers they are presenting. Does anyone remember the great Liberal Red Book promise of a job creation infrastructure-spending program in 1993? It never happened and neither is it likely the 2015 version will happen either. The NDP also plans to spend money on infrastructure and create jobs too but at the same time while balancing every single budget. Their infrastructure plan is even less likely to happen than the Liberal plan.

The NDP says it will raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. The only problem is that this would affect almost no minimum wage workers across the country as most minimum wage workers are under the provincial minimum wage. It would not be much of a stretch for the Liberals to get behind this plan as it costs virtually nothing and will help virtually no one.

The NDP also says it will institute a $15 per day national childcare plan. However, with the numbers the party has put forward it is clear they would never get there. The Liberals once had plans for a national childcare program too but were unwilling to put in place the money to see it come to fruition either when they were in government.

The NDP has stood against the Harper government’s flawed Bill C-51 anti-terrorism legislation and the Liberals voted in favour. However, because of the bill’s unpopularity amongst many Canadians it is likely that if push came to shove, the Liberals would be willing to reverse their support.

Both parties are in favour of small business tax cuts even though it has been shown that this does little to stimulate the economy. Both the NDP and Liberals now fully support free trade and the free and unhindered movement of capital. Both parties have no interest in increasing federal transfers to the provinces for social programs or in creating any sort of uniformity in the accessibility of these social programs across the country. The NDP and Liberals will also continue to abdicate the federal government’s role in properly funding post-secondary education and have no problem with tuition rates continuing to increase rapidly every year, thereby further decreasing accessibility.

Both parties are interested in talking about fighting climate change but have no real interest in reducing Canada’s reliance on fossil fuels. The NDP and Liberals are more hesitant to give unquestioning support to the oilsands and pipeline projects than the Conservatives but are not willing to really do anything that would hinder their expansion or progress. Both parties are also fully committed to NATO.

So, a few things have become clear during this election campaign. There is an anti-Harper voting bloc in the electorate of about 60 per cent. This bloc has become tired of the Harper government’s neoconservative policies including making Canada a warmongering state, continued disrespect for the judiciary, information control, disrespect for independent and arms-length agencies and manipulation of the rules of parliament to name a few. At the same time, as we have seen, the Conservatives have a very committed voting bloc of about 30 per cent of the public.

It also appears that the Liberals have managed to survive their worst years in the party’s history and are on the upswing under new leader Justin Trudeau. There is no doubt that Trudeau has stumbled from time to time but over the course of this campaign he has demonstrated himself as a capable leader, particularly when compared to his two predecessors. It is almost certain Trudeau will improve the Liberal seat count come election day and the party still has a decent shot at winning a minority government. Justin Trudeau will be around as Liberal leader for some time to come.

So, this is where we sit – in a virtual deadlock with a three-way party tie. And, there is no reason to believe that the deadlock that currently exists between the NDP and Liberals is going to change anytime between now and election day. The anti-Harper bloc simply can see no difference between the two parties and nor should they. In fact, a number of voters have taken to displaying both Liberal and NDP lawn signs during this campaign and not as a joke. Many are waiting until October 19 before deciding which party they will support but it is unlikely either the Liberals or NDP will give them any help in terms of making up their minds. It is quite likely a number of voters will simply have to flip a coin in terms of deciding which party to vote for.

If an election were held today, it could likely be a Conservative minority while either NDP or Liberal minorities remain distinct possibilities. Regardless of which party wins a minority on October 19, it makes little difference to the overall larger picture.

It is now clear that neither the NDP nor Liberals have the ability to score the knockout punch both would like to deliver to take out the other. So, regardless of which party wins the election, the public pressure for an NDP/Liberal coalition as a means of stopping the Conservatives will be huge. But when you have two parties that are virtually now identical in all of their core beliefs, the next question will be why not a merger, instead of just a coalition, as a long-term solution to stopping Harper?

After the election those leading both the NDP and Liberals will also likely find out that the anti-Harper public will be far less patient than the partisans in each of the parties in terms of delaying a merger. This sector of the public will not look kindly upon either party that insists on what are now fictitious differences in order to prevent a merger and all the while create the distinct possibility of more Conservative minorities and even majorities down the road.

In theory, the merger should be much easier for the Liberals than the NDP. After all, regardless of what the new party is called, it would essentially be an expanded Liberal Party as the NDP has now adopted all of the Liberals’ core values.

Such a merger would certainly be more difficult for NDP partisans but will they really have much of a choice in the matter? After virtually becoming a Liberal party on their own, they can either choose to continue contesting elections against another political party who is different in name only or join forces with the Liberals and severely limit a possible Conservative return to power. It is assured the anti-Conservative public will not look kindly upon the former option.

Those leading the NDP will, no doubt, be mystified at the corner they have now painted themselves into after the 2015 election. Then again, they should have thought far more clearly about this before pursuing a path that has made the NDP virtually a Liberal clone.

Fraser Needham is a freelance journalist living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He has been working and writing in Saskatchewan for the past 15 years. Aside from the Saskatchewan CCF/NDP, he follows Aboriginal issues and politics closely.

See also: Liberals release fiscal plan that seeks to avoid austerity with unicorns and fairy dust

See also: NDP spending document creates more questions than answers

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Liberals release fiscal plan that seeks to avoid austerity with unicorns and fairy dust

Last week, for what it was worth, the NDP released their "costing" document seeking to show how an NDP government would make good on its election promises while also, as they have committed to, balancing the books no matter what (because, you know, this is what Tommy would do!).

Fraser Needham said of the NDP "plan" that "Quite frankly, this document isn’t worth the paper its printed on."

And he is right. It is either simply nonsense or guaranteed to result in austerity.

Not to be outdone, however, the Liberals have released a "fiscal plan" that utterly belies their newly minted attempts to don the "anti-austerity" cloak and that shows what a farce and sham "mainstream" bourgeois politics has become in Canada.

The Liberal plan seemingly starts well -- and unlike the other two neo-liberal programs on offer from the Conservatives  and NDP accepts the reality that the Conservative "surplus" is a phony one, that we are heading into a recession and that the government should start stimulus spending -- but ultimately it too returns to a fixation on balanced books and does so at such a rapid arc, and with so few meaningful details as to how it intends to do this, that cuts to programs are inevitable.

So, the plan states:
Our plan includes measures that, according to Department of Finance multiplier projections, will have positive impacts on economic growth, particularly infrastructure investment and measures for lower-income Canadians. 
This is unquestionably positive as a general economic idea within a very limited neo-Keynesian capitalist context, but the plan then depends on a variety of "new revenues" to arbitrarily achieve a surplus by 2019 (not coincidentally what would be a re-election year were they to win a majority). Some of these, like the Liberal proposal to tax the wealthiest Canadians more, actually do make sense, though they are being framed in a way that plays into the context of the Liberal pandering to the "middle class" narrative.

They are also offset by totally unnecessary tax cuts for "small business" and the "middle class".

While the plan does offer other new revenue sources it also hinges greatly to get where it wants to be by 2019 on what can only be described as unicorn fairy dust and this is even partly, though unintentionally, acknowledged as such.

Under the column "Tax expenditure and Harper spending review" the Liberal fiscal outline suddenly becomes truly, absurdly vague.

Here the "numbers" are farcically inexact. As if they are grade school kids making up the math as they go along, the Liberals project essentially pulling out of thin air a lockstep progression of neatly flat rated "savings" that go from $500 million in the first year, to $1 Billion in the second, to $2 Billion in the third and finally to $3 billion in the fourth,

How do they arrive at these numbers? Who knows? Pretty much because they say they do.

Yet, given that in 2019 they promise a very small surplus significantly lower than $3 billion, these "savings" are essential to meet the target even if all their other math adds up exactly.

This is reminiscent of the Ontario NDP's Andrea Horwath's inane promise to find hundreds of millions of dollars in unspecified "inefficiencies" during to the 2014 Ontario election to make her plan "work", or of Rob Ford's nonsense about "gravy trains".

In practice it means cuts to services.

Despite the phrasing the Liberals will not find all these "savings" by cutting alleged "waste" or closing loopholes.

So, in the end, the Liberal plan depends either on an economic revival that will bring in unspecified revenues or meeting these "efficiency" targets.

Given the past history of Liberal governments, especially the vicious austerity Chretien/Martin regime, I think it is clear how this is likely to play out.

See also: NDP spending document creates more questions than answers

See also: Playing the progressive card -- Trudeau's cynical, but clever, "left shift"

Zucchini Fundido -- A spicy appetizer or party dish!

Zucchini Fundido
Submitted by Natalie Lochwin

Today I look at a quick and easy -- and absolutely delicious -- dish that works as a great appetizer or party plate!

First take 1 1/2 cups of thinly sliced  zucchini  and 1/2 an egg sized thinly sliced onion and salt them generously to draw out their water.

Add all to a cast iron pan and cook down in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for at least 20-30 minutes over low heat until nicely carmelized and soft.

Add 5-6 dashes of hot sauce (I used tabasco) and taste and then season more with hot sauce or salt accordingly if desired.

Grate  mozzarella and Monterrey Jack  or aged white cheddar very generously over the zucchini/onion mix and place the cast iron pan into an oven preheated to broil. Broil until the chess is golden and bubbling.

Remove (watch out, pan will be very hot) and let sit a few minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips, or soft tortilla for scooping! Goes perfectly with ice cold sodas or beer and also goes well with any delicious tequila and lime drink.


See also: Michelada con Camarones: Our take on a spicy beer cocktail!

See also: Chilaquiles Inspired Black Bean, Cheese & Salsa Verde Bake

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Send them to The Left Chapter via

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ukrainian Cookery Recipes w. Borscht, Vareniki, Cabbage Rolls & more -- Vintage Cookbook

Vintage Cookbook: Ukrainian Cookery Recipes

Publication Details: Technika Publishers, Kiev USSR, 1980

This past weekend I went with my family to Toronto's Ukrainian Festival held annually on Bloor St. W.

While the stage acts (featuring many traditional Ukrainian dance numbers among other things) and vendors are terrific, so is the food! I had perogies, including a terrific jerk chicken variation, an amazing take on spring rolls that uses perogie style ingredients as the filling, excellent sausages and more.

Just the next day (serendipity!) while sorting through cookbooks at a local charity outlet -- I am a relentless collector -- Natalie and I came across a vintage Ukrainian cookbook from the Soviet era.

Published in 1980 in Kiev, this handy little guide opens with a short introduction to the cuisine generally and then goes on to look at a wide variety of classic dishes widely known to non-Ukrainians as well as some that are unusual -- including the truly spectacular and wild Transcarpathian Salad!

So enjoy a trip through some Ukrainian delights -- and be sure to catch next year's festival if you are in Toronto (or a similar one in a community near you!)

(Click on images to enlarge) 

I saw a variation of this recipe at the you can see here!

Stop sharing the false -- and racist -- Ontario niqab driver's licence meme

Have you seen this meme circulating around Facebook and the internet the last few days?

It purports to show a woman on an Ontario driver's licence  wearing the niqab -- a religious headdress a very small number of Islamic women in Canada wear and that is being shamefully used by some politicians as a dog-whistle in the current federal election.

Usually the meme will be accompanied by countless outraged comments and idiotic hand-wringing about "Canadian identity", "values", "this would never be allowed for us" etc.

Well, the meme is total photoshop bullshit. First the licence clearly has the sex as male. But, more importantly, you cannot get a driver's licence issued in Ontario with a photo that has you wearing a niqab covering your face.

From the Ontario government's webpage related to this:

 As of May 2013, you only need to renew the photo on your driver's licence every 10 years. If you need a new photo, you need to visit a ServiceOntario centre to have one taken.
The picture on your photo I.D. must be:
completely visible
free of any obstructions
a neutral expression
Headwear worn for religious or medical reasons can be worn, but must not cover any part of your face.
You may be asked to remove any head or face wear (e.g., eyeglasses) when taking a photo for government-issued identification.

Clear enough?

There are very real issues in this election. The niqab is not one of them. And sharing racist, dog-whistle, inaccurate rubbish like this is a disgrace.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The NDP's phony “credit card” analogy: a neoliberal conception of the public household

By Matt Fodor

In an attempt to shore up the NDP’s fiscal credibility, Tom Mulcair recruited Andrew Thomson, the fiscally conservative finance minister that served in the NDP provincial government of Lorne Calvert in Saskatchewan.

Thomson is running in the affluent Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence against Finance Minister Joe Oliver.  While the NDP has virtually no chance of winning this Liberal-Conservative battleground riding (it is one of the weakest ridings for the NDP in Ontario), Thomson has become Mulcair’s point man in articulating economic policy.

In an ironic twist, while the Liberals are positioning themselves as the party of Keynesian interventionism, Mulcair and Thomson have effectively expunged any remaining Keynesian notions from the party.  Commenting on the press conference where Thomson’s candidacy was unveiled, respected TVO journalist Steve Paikin expressed surprise at the NDP’s attempt to present themselves as the biggest deficit hawks of the major parties.  As Paikin reports:

“Mulcair reiterated his pledge to balance the budget during his first year in office. During a wide-ranging, free-wheeling scrum, I asked Mulcair why he thought it was so imperative to be even a tougher deficit hawk than the prime minister. He said it was immoral to go further into debt today, and pass on the responsibility of repaying those debts to our children and grandchildren. Thomson added that while Canada’s debt- to-GDP ratio is a manageable 30 per cent, if you add all provincial debts into the mix, it gets closer to 85 per cent which he considered dangerous.
“Do you like Paul Krugman as an economist?” I asked Thomson.
“I do,” he said. Krugman has repeatedly written in his New York Times column that with interest rates at historic lows, it’s a perfect time to deficit spend to catch up for decades of under investment in infrastructure.
“But on this one, Krugman’s wrong,” Thomson said.”

Krugman has of course been one of the most articulate and high profile critics of the economic orthodoxy of austerity, warning that in economic hard times the obsession with getting the fiscal house in order in economic hard times ultimately results in a downward spiral and contraction of the economy.   Keynesian economics calls for government intervention and deficit spending in order to stimulate the economy.

It is ironic to see the NDP present themselves as the most committed deficit fighters.  During the 2008-09 fiscal crisis, Jack Layton led the charge for a greater stimulus, in opposition to the Hooverian orthodoxy of the Harper government.  And as recently as last year, Finance Critic Peggy Nash stated that the government’s focus on deficit reduction was wrong-headed in a time of high unemployment and the economy operating below potential.

Nor are the two NDP provincial governments prioritizing fighting the deficit.  The government of Greg Selinger in Manitoba has run deficits since 2009.  And while the government of Rachel Notley in Alberta inherited a deficit from the previous Conservative government, it has vowed not to cut services in order to balance the books.

In criticizing Trudeau’s short-term deficit spending plan, Mulcair and Thomson have continued to present right-wing talking points.  A particularly ludicrous example is this recent statement, which says:  “Justin Trudeau has already maxed out his deficit credit card in the first year of his “fiscal plan.””

These right-wing talking points are balanced out by ones about “deep Martin style cuts.”  Yet the NDP, if it accepts the self-imposed constraints of balancing the budget no matter what the circumstances (while keeping taxes at “competitive” levels) will almost inevitably be forced to make cuts (and the experience of the Ford regime in Toronto has shown that the idea of only pursuing “painless” cuts, going only after waste without touching essential services, is a mirage).  And they certainly render a social democratic reform program virtually impossible.

This phony “credit card” analogy shows the degree to which even social democratic and center-left parties have embraced the neoliberal conception of the public household.  It appeals to the populist “common sense” idea of “if a family must live within its means, so should the government.”  But this is a ludicrous idea as the government is not a private household!

The distinguished political economist Andrew Gamble has argued that neoliberals have too long dominated the discourse about the public household.  According to Gamble, the center-left must

...find new ways to talk about the economic crisis and to engage in the politics of austerity.  At present it is losing the argument.  One of the reasons for this is that politicians of the centre-right have generally been more adept at employing a discourse about an international market system that must obey the impersonal rules of ‘market forces’ alongside a discourse about the public household.  In this discourse the public household is often reduced by analogy to a private household (which must subordinate everything to balancing its income with its expenditure) or to a corporate household (which subordinates everything to the bottom line and the pursuit of efficiency.

In recent years even the center-left has often accepted the “minimalist” conception of the public household, and should again be “maximalist.”  As Gamble states: “Recapturing the confidence to affirm the importance of politics that shape the way markets are governed and companies are governed is an essential step to a new centre-left political economy.”

The NDP’s embrace of conservative talking points about deficits and use of a “credit card” analogy to talk about government spending shows that they have a long way to go!

Source:  Andrew Gamble (2013), “Coming to Terms With Capitalism: Austerity Politics and the Public Household.”  In Olaf Cramme, Patrick Diamond and Michael McTernan, Progressive Politics After the Crash: Governing from the Left.  London: I.B. Tauris.

Matt Fodor is a Toronto based writer and academic. He is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at York University.

This piece originally appeared on Matt Fodor's new political blog, Dropping the Writ. It is reprinted here with permission.

Matt has also started a blog dedicated to Toronto's local history,  South of Bloor St. 

See also: NDP spending document creates more questions than answers

See also: As "Third Way" politics suffers a huge defeat in the UK, in Canada it has now triumphed

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Somebody's watching you and other follies from week seven of the 2015 election -- A Left Chapter round-up

This is the seventh installment of our weekly election round-up of the inane, bizarre, humorous and unusually facile in the great show that is mainstream bourgeois politics in the EPIC election of 2015.


Only these paranoid drips would have come up with this spectacularly stupid idea.

2) Myself I prefer Molson Stock Ale

It is always a good sign when the Prime Minister hauls out an expression that seems to only be used by white supremacists and racists.  

This one has Lynton Crosby written all over it. There will be a LOT more of this dog-whistle shit to come. He is just getting rolling.

3) What? What do you mean this seems dubious?

Justin Trudeau is in real, real trouble in his own riding...says a poll with a huge margin of error commissioned by his opponents!

I mean, what seems not believable about that?

4) Well....if nobody actually likes you... turns out Harper and his crew are making absolutely, positively sure that you like them! That you like them a lot. That you like them on Facebook. Whether you would like to or not!

5) Why should the Conservatives be the only ones with a dog-whistle? I want one too!

Yes....that's right...some jackass NDP candidate -- this guy -- actually mused about changing the constitution of Canada to possibly ban the niqab. You read that correctly. He suggested changing the constitution. For real. 

The party has made him "back off"...but unlike Morgan Wheeldon while mild criticism of Israel taken out-of-context gets you removed, say this dog-whistle, gross bullshit and you are allowed to stay on.

Thus ends our seventh look at the Grand Farce. See you next week!

Got any suggestions for next week's round-up...send them to or post them to our Facebook page!

Mouseland -- A 21st Century Vision

by Fraser Needham

Once upon a time there was a place called Mouseland.

And even though the majority of animals in this place were mice, and this is why it was called Mouseland, it had always been ruled by either black or white cat governments. So, not surprisingly, these governments were quite adept at passing laws that were good for cats but not so good for mice.

So, one day, the mice had had enough and they created their own mice party. Many mice were active in this party and they set about drafting and debating policies they felt would truly best serve mice. These policies were then put into election platforms of the mice party and this party began to contest elections.

It wasn’t too long before the mice party was winning seats in the Mouseland legislature. And, although the black and white cat parties still held more seats than the mice party and were able to continue forming governments, with their new party the mice were able to put enough pressure on the government so that the odd time the cats actually passed some laws that were good for mice. What progress!

The long term goal the mice believed in was that if they continued to work hard and compete in elections with their new party, they would one day gain enough seats to form government. And, when this happened, a mice party government would be able to pass laws and create a society that was truly beneficial for mice and history would be changed forever!

However, although the mice worked very hard and continued to contest elections, progress was slower than initially anticipated. In some elections the mice party would gain seats, only to see them lose these same seats in the next election. This was because the issue at hand in elections was far more complex than mice voting for a mice party. Some mice continued to vote for the black and white cat parties because this is all that they had ever known. Many other mice did not vote at all.

But the white and black cats continued to vote in every election as they had always done.
So, while the mice who were active in the mice party continued to believe that if they worked hard enough that they would one day elect their own government, the elected mice began to see things differently. They began to seriously wonder no matter how hard they worked, if they would ever live to see an actual mice party government.

And, they began to wonder what all the fighting was for? They not only had to fight tooth and nail in the legislature to get any mice laws passed against the white and black cat governments, they were always fighting against other powerful forces as society at large remained controlled by white and black cats.

And, the more the elected mice began to spend time in the legislature with the white and black cat politicians and the less time with mice, they began to think perhaps these cats aren’t so bad after all. I mean, there must be some reason why they have always ruled Mouseland and some of their ideas seemed to make a whole lot more sense than they once did.

And, although with everyone watching the mice party politicians continued to kick up a fuss and pretend to argue with the white and black cats in the legislature, after hours it was quite a different story. It was well known within certain circles in the Mouseland capital that the mice politicians had become quite friendly with their white and black cat counterparts. They ate and drank together and started to agree with the cats on many things.

The mice politicians also realized one other very important thing. They could continue to fight with the white and black cat politicians and greater society at large in the hopes of getting a few laws passed to benefit mice which was all of course a lot of hard work. Or, they could try and get along a little better with their white and black cat counterparts, stop all the fighting for limited gain and generally let the cats impose their will as they had always done. The latter option was of course much less work and, at the end of the day; they still got paid the same. Their mice supporters would of course not like this but what choice did they have? They could either vote for a mouse or a cat and they knew that they would almost always choose the former regardless of what the mice politicians said or did.

Not surprisingly, the rank and file mice party members began to complain that things seemed to be moving backwards instead of forwards. The mice politicians had given up fighting for laws to benefit mice and more often than not supported laws that benefited cats. “How did it come to this?” they asked. At the same time, the mice politicians, who now rarely found the time to attend mice party events, even if they were supposed to as set out by the mice party constitution, would chastise the mice when they did find the time to speak to them.

“You just don’t understand,” the mice party politicians would say. “Things have changed and it is much harder to get mice laws passed than we initially thought. The cats control everything and it is next to impossible to get this to change right now. We understand this better than you because we are in the legislature with cats, we know and understand them and they are not to be trifled with. So, the best course of action is to reduce our expectations and build to fight another day. And, unfortunately this means going along with some of the cat ideas just for now. We don’t like it but we don’t really have any choice.”

And so it went for a number of years. The mice politicians continued to challenge their white and black cat counterparts less and less until eventually almost never at all. Perhaps what was most difficult for the rank and file mice was they continued to work very hard and passed resolutions at the mice party conventions with the intention of putting them into election platforms, as had once been the case. Yet, time and again, these resolutions would never make it into the mice party electoral platform but would instead be replaced by proposals that appeared to favour cats. After awhile, the hierarchy of the mice party began to destroy these resolutions and even deny their existence.

The mice party members became very frustrated by this seeming betrayal by the elected mice politicians but still felt they had little choice but to vote for them and hope things improved some day. After all, voting for a mouse had to be better than voting for a cat although this certainly didn’t seem to be the case on a lot of days!

And then one day something very strange happened.

An internal battle within the white cat party, which had been brewing for several years, boiled over and this party effectively imploded. All of a sudden, the white cats couldn’t decide amongst themselves on a leader, they couldn’t decide on policy direction and they certainly couldn’t effectively contest an election. For all intense purposes, they were dysfunctional.

By default, the vacuum created a tremendous opportunity for the mice party. Because of the implosion, some white cats began to vote for the black cat party. However, others began to cast their votes with the mice party. The way they looked at it was the mice party was now running on a platform that, if implemented, would certainly benefit cats and besides; a number of them just couldn’t stand the black cat party leader.

So, without changing course, the mice party began to increase its seat count in elections. And then one day it happened, the mice party won enough seats in the legislature to form official opposition to the black cat government – the first time in the party’s history! The mice were ecstatic! Just a few short years ago it seemed as if they would never form government and now for the first time in history it was within grasp – the next election would be crucial!

And then another strange twist occurred.

One day, the senior leadership of the mice party, along with the elected politicians, got together and brought in a white cat to be the party leader and the mice were even more confused than ever. “How could a white cat possibly lead the mice party?” they wondered. “Wasn’t the main goal of the mice party to elect mice so they could create a society that would better serve mice, once and for all?”
The mice party senior leadership assured them not to worry and that the new leader would address them in good time, explain everything and it would all make sense. And eventually that day came.

As the new leader entered the mice party convention hall the chattering mice fell silent. You could not hear a pin drop as he walked to the podium and prepared to speak.

And very quietly and confidently he cleared his throat and this is what he said:

“Look, I understand your reservations about all of this and if I were you I would probably think the same thing,” he said. “You must certainly be saying to yourselves, ‘how can a white cat possibly lead a mice party?’

“I know it all seems strange but you have to look at the bigger picture. I am a white cat and I understand how they think and I know how to get enough of them to vote for this party so we can win the next election and form government. Many of them trust me and they will trust that I will run this party and a government in their best interests.

“So, what does this mean? It means this mice party will run on an election platform that is more favourable to cats than ever before. And trust me, enough white mice will trust and vote for us so we can win.

“And where’s the catch, what’s in it for mice, you might ask? Once we have won the election and formed government, then we can start passing and implementing laws that will benefit mice. However, we can never talk about this other plan until after the election is won, otherwise it will scare the white cat voters off. Trust me, it is a great trick and it will work. You just keep the mice voters on board and leave the rest to me.”

The mice remained silent for a moment but then a few started to grumble and one particularly brave mouse spoke out and this is what he said:

“I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem right. We run on one platform and then go ahead and do something totally different once we get in government? It seems dishonest. Why don’t we just do like we used to do and run on a platform that will benefit mice? For sure the mice will vote for us and maybe some of the white cats too and so we could still win the election. Lying in order to get in power just doesn’t seem right, as far as I am concerned.”

Suddenly the white cat leader grew very silent and his eyes glazed over. He asked that the mouse that spoke out and the few others that seemed to support him be removed from the convention hall.

And then with a very serious and stern look on his face he began to address the mice again:

“Look, I am going to be 100 per cent honest with you and tell you a few things that are going to surprise and maybe even upset you. You have to understand that not all mice are good. Not even close to it, as a matter of fact. And this includes some mice that have been standing right beside you here in this convention hall that you think are your friends.

“Remember, I am a white cat and I know a thing or two. Some of these mice are Bolsheviks, some of them are Communists and some are anarchists. And some, are even spies for both the white and black cat parties! Trust me, I know and have seen it from the other side.

“Sure, they pretend they are your friends but the last thing they ever want to see is a mice party truly succeed and form government. Now that they see you are so close to success, it scares them and they will do everything in their power to sabotage your success. If they have to twist the facts, lie, cheat – whatever the case may be – they will do it to stop you from succeeding.”

The white cat leader then grew silent again and he looked out across the crowd of mice seeming to lock eyes with each and every one of them before saying, “I think you now know what has to be done,” before waving his hand as a motion to bring the mice who had confronted him back into the convention hall.

The mice came back in and the hall grew silent again – even more so than when the white cat leader had first addressed the convention hall. And then, after what seemed like an eternity but was probably no more than 30 seconds, he nodded ever so slightly to the mice he had most recently addressed.

And then suddenly, without hesitation, the majority of mice in the convention hall turned on the mouse who had spoke out and his few friends and viciously attacked them. The mouse who spoke out was killed within a few minutes but his friends were lucky enough to escape the hall with their lives in tact, if only barely. Not surprisingly they were never seen again.

And so that was that and preparations for the next election campaign began in earnest. And when the time came, the mice party was better prepared then it had ever been for an election and the mice worked harder than they ever had to elect their first government.

And then the day finally came – the first ever mice party government in Mouseland’s history was finally elected! The mice partied long into the night on that day as they talked about all the wonderful things they would do for their fellow mice now that they finally controlled their first government.

They even had to pinch themselves every now and then to make sure it had really happened and was not just a dream.

The next day, the newly elected head of government – the white cat leader of the mice party – returned to the convention hall to address the mice. He had a very self-assured and almost grimacing smile on his face as he approached the convention hall. He had been elected leader of Mouseland and not through a white cat party but a mice party of all things. And he had done it all on a platform that would surely benefit cats. Who would have ever thought, he laughed to himself.

Now all that remained was to speak to these darn mice again. Now that he was leader of all of Mouseland, this is not an event that would be occurring very often in the future. I mean, he didn’t mind the senior leadership of the mice party, or the elected politicians, but these rank and file mice were a damned nuisance as far as he was concerned.

So, the white cat leader entered the hall and gave a very perfunctory speech. He thanked the mice for all their hard work during the campaign and said that this was certainly an historic day for all mice and great things surely lay upon the horizon. He was just about to wrap up his speech when a mouse spoke out from the back of the hall.

This mouse had been loyal to the mice party through thick and thin, through ups and downs, for a great many years. He had stuck with the party even when he did not understand why the leadership was making certain decisions it had made. His loyalty had never wavered and he had even endorsed the white cat leader without question.

“Great leader,” the mouse said, “now that we have won the election and elected our first mice party government, when can we start talking about and implementing the other plan? You know, the secret one we weren’t allowed to talk about during the campaign. The one that will enact good laws for mice and create a society once and for all that is truly beneficial to all mice.”

The white cat leader suddenly looked dumbfounded and was clearly at a loss for words. In all the elation of his election as leader of all of Mouseland, he certainly had not been prepared for what the loyal party mouse had just said.

But, being the seasoned politician he was, he quickly recovered himself and looked straight into the crowd of mice. However, he did not so much look at the mice but above them and a look of hostility came over his face but then quickly passed.

And then, he suddenly broke out into uncontrollable laughter but it was not a laughter of joy but one more of contempt. And for someone outside looking in, it was clear that he was laughing at the mice and not with them.

Finally, when he had further regained himself enough to speak, he addressed the mice again, “Oh we will certainly get to the other um,” he giggled, “plan in good time. You just be patient and wait. It will all happen in good time…”

And before anyone knew it, his handlers were whisking him away from the convention hall and into a waiting car outside as his laughter continued to echo all the way throughout the hall and beyond.

And that was the last time the mice ever saw him.

Fraser Needham is a freelance journalist living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He has been working and writing in Saskatchewan for the past 15 years. Aside from the Saskatchewan CCF/NDP, he follows Aboriginal issues and politics closely.

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

NDP spending document creates more questions than answers

By Fraser Needham 

Committing to balanced budgets as the economy slows and recession looms, bragging about a lower corporate tax rate than the G7 average and the U.S., small business tax cuts, increased military and police spending and other social spending commitments buried or not even mentioned at all – sound like a Stephen Harper spending plan?

Well, it very well could be but it was actually Thomas Mulcair and the NDP’s spending plan released earlier this week. Ever since the NDP leader committed that his government would absolutely balance budgets regardless of the state of the economy if elected, he has been on the hot seat to explain how he would do this without raising taxes or cutting social spending commitments. Mulcair immediately moved to dampen expectations in terms of social spending by saying that an NDP government would only pledge to meet its biggest commitment, a $15 per day national childcare plan, by the end of its first term. This was later pushed even further back to perhaps a second term.

Remind you of anyone? This is the old Liberal government trick of pushing social spending commitments further and further back as you continue to cut taxes and spending. Eventually the government is defeated, as happened to the Paul Martin Liberals in 2006, and numerous social spending commitments remain on the table and never fulfilled. Including, as was the case with the last Liberal government, a long promised national childcare plan that was never met.

So, the NDP released its long awaited campaign spending plan on Wednesday and fear not, there are no substantial tax increases. As the party has promised throughout the election, there are no income tax hikes, not even on the very wealthy. There is a meaningless two per cent corporate tax increase which the party document lauds still puts Canada below the G7 average and U.S. rates – as if this is something to brag about.

To put this into context, Canada’s corporate tax rate declined under the Liberals to 21 per cent between 2000 and 2007. It has furthered declined under the Conservatives to 15 per cent. In 1980, the rate was 30 per cent. So, the NDP plan to raise the corporate tax rate to 17 per cent would not even restore revenue to 2007 levels, which of course are woefully inadequate. The current G7 corporate tax rate average is almost 30 per cent and the U.S.’s is 39 per cent.

If the NDP refuses to raise tax levels in any significant way, where are they going to find the money to meet their spending commitments? By closing stock option loopholes for rich CEOs, of course. The NDP document doesn’t say exactly how they plan to do this but the measure is supposed to generate $2 billion over four years – not very much either way. However, seeing as the wealthy employ high priced lawyers to help them take advantage of such stock option loopholes, it seems unlikely an NDP government would be able to crack down on the practice quite so easily.

The NDP plan also says it will generate $580 million over four years by reallocating unspent P3 funds to infrastructure spending. Again, not very much money but how easy would it be for an NDP to reallocate these unspent funds without paying stiff penalties, considering the current Conservative government may very well likely have reached preliminary agreements with private companies on how this money is to be spent?

The document also says $1 billion over four years would be saved by canceling fossil fuel subsidies. However, as a Globe and Mail article points out, finance department documents show no such gains would be made. The same article also points out that it appears somewhat dubious the $5.4 billion the NDP has put aside for health care will not only meet the party’s commitment to increase funding to the provinces by six per cent a year but also cover all of its other health care commitments made during the campaign.

The NDP will put $6.6 billion over four years toward its much-vaunted $15 per day national childcare plan. However, will this really be enough, even to get this program off the ground? Considering in order to make the program work a federal NDP government would likely have to take on more than 50 per cent of the costs in the poorer Maritime provinces.

And, of course, young people are not left out of the NDP’s spending plan. The party will slate $1.4 billion over a term to an area called “Opportunities for Young Canadians.” This money is supposed to go toward helping young people get jobs and help with the cost of post-secondary education. However, the document does not mention, and there is certainly no intention, of either freezing or lowering the skyrocketing cost of post secondary education – the number one obstacle that is currently limiting the economic success of Canada’s young people.

Several other promised spending measures are noticeably absent from the document. Such as the NDP’s promise to reinstate door-to-door Canada Post home delivery, instituting a carbon tax or any other environmental measures. At the NDP’s press conference to announce its spending plan, the party did admit it would have to eliminate its pledge to increase foreign aid by 0.7 per cent of GDP.

However, one commitment that is certainly not left out is the NDP’s pledge to increase spending on military and policing. In the first year of its mandate, an NDP government would spend $185 million to make Canada more “safe and secure” and this would increase to $398 million in the fourth year for a total of $1.4 billion.

Another spending promise that the NDP is holding true to is the party’s pledge to cut the small business tax from 11 to nine per cent at a cost of about $3 billion. As NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has reminded us over and over again during this campaign, small businesses are the heart of our economy and the true “job creators.” So the NDP says the long-term benefits of the small business tax cut in terms of jobs and economic stimulus will far outweigh the initial cost.

Unfortunately, Mulcair and company will find few serious economists that agree with them on this point. For example, while tax expert Jack Mintz fully supports cutting the corporate tax rate as a means of stimulating the economy, he cautions against small business tax cuts. In a paper, he writes that roughly 60 per cent of the value of a small-business tax deduction accrues to households earning more than $200,000 per year.

The Globe and Mail calls the numbers used in the NDP spending document “fuzzy at best” and this is being very, very kind.

Quite frankly, this document isn’t worth the paper its printed on.

Fraser Needham is a freelance journalist living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He has been working and writing in Saskatchewan for the past 15 years. Aside from the Saskatchewan CCF/NDP, he follows Aboriginal issues and politics closely.

See also: It appears the NDP strategists are stuck in the 90’s – again

See also: Raising Monuments -- How Corbyn may yet turn the tide

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Swatow Restaurant -- Shrimp Dumpling Noodle Soup & more in the heart of Toronto

Today I want to take a look at one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto -- Swatow, a restaurant just north of Dundas St. on the east side of Spadina Ave. in the very heart of Toronto's downtown Chinatown area and the city itself.

Swatow highlights a style of cooking the originates from the Fujian region, and its extensive menu is full of very affordable and truly delicious dishes. It is a casual dining restaurant that I have been going to for over 20 years and in all that time I can honestly say that I have never had a bad meal or dish there.

Always brightly lit and full of patrons at all hours of the day or night, it has a very friendly staff (some of whom have been there the entire time I have been going) and welcoming atmosphere. There are tables for four along the sides and large round tables down the middle that are either for large groups or for mixed/communal eating when the restaurant is really busy (Swatow does not take reservations, so at peak hours you may have to wait in a line a few minutes).

The prices are excellent, with most dishes costing less than $10, and the portions are large -- a great combination!

Shrimp Dumpling Noddle Soup
I simply adore their justly famous Shrimp Dumpling Noodle Soup, a dish I find it difficult to go a week without. The dumplings are, simply put, fantastic and the whole earthy blend of broth, greens and noodles is perfect any time of day (or night, Swatow is a well established late night "after the bars close" destination), or any season. I highly recommend adding heaping spoonfuls of their excellent house table chili flake hot sauce.

Beef with Black Bean Sauce and Fried Noodle
I have also ordered the Beef with Black Bean Sauce and Fried Noodles many times. The fried noodle dishes at Swatow are all excellent, the very satisfying texture of the perfectly prepared noodles complimenting the various sauces and meat, chicken or seafood. Swatow always has wonderfully moist beef and chicken, never the dry or tough fare that one all too often gets at restaurants of all types.

General Tso's Chicken 
The slightly spicy General Tso's chicken, done a little differently than many places I have had it, is another dish well worth trying.

Greens with Oyster Sauce
A side dish I order virtually every time I go is the Greens with Oyster Sauce. I love dipping the greens in the salty sauce and the combination is a terrific one.

Deep Fried Squid with spicy dipping sauce.
The kids grabbed  up pieces right when it hit the table before I could take the photo!
The portion size is much larger than this. 
Swatow makes an excellent deep fried squid plate. Seasoned so that they are a little spicy, they are served with a side sauce that is really spicy and flavourful.

Their Lo Mein dishes and beef sizzling plate have also been memorable stand outs over the years, and it is hard to go wrong with any of their soups or anything I have tried on the menu for that matter. Two people can easily eat here for less than $40.

Swatow is located at 309 Spadina Ave., just north of Dundas St. in the heart of Chinatown and near the Kensington Market district. They are open until at least 2 a.m., 365 days a year. Swatow does not accept reservations and is not licensed. 416-977-0601