Saturday, October 31, 2015

Art: Trick-or-Treating at Pumpkinhead's House

Happy Halloween From All of Us at The Left Chapter!

Trick-or-Treating at Pumpkinhead's House - Acrylic on Canvas by Natalie Lochwin
Click on image to enlarge.

(Prints of Natalie's art are available, email for details)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Just forget about a Canadian Corbyn -- How a lackluster left in Canada gets the Mulcair it deserves

What happens within the power structure of the NDP after the party runs the worst campaign in its history, in that it squandered its shot at power and, for the first time ever in Canadian politics, allowed a "third party" to catapult and leap frog itself to a majority government?

Not only does the former Liberal cabinet minister Tom Mulcair that the NDP imported to lead them to government and who then blew it say  "he nonetheless intends to stay on as party leader and lead the NDP into the next federal election in four years"  but he also says he intends to appoint a committee to tell him what "went wrong."


One can assume that this "committee", beholden to him, will be unlikely to point to what without any doubt was the largest thing that "went wrong" -- that being his leadership and the inept and incompetent strategy developed by him and his staff.

The farce shows every sign of continuing.

In doing this Mulcair takes a page from the successful effort of the ONDP's Andrea Horwath to keep her job after she ran a disastrous campaign in 2014. After all, why not? He imitated in a totally suicidal way the tone of her fiasco in the playing out of his. But Horwath, who in  any party serious about holding its leadership to account and about actually achieving results would have been shown the door, also brought in defeated caucus members to whitewash her decisions and not only survived a leadership review but saw her approval rating increase!

A striking testament to the grotesquely delusional and insular political culture of the NDP.

There is no reason to think the same gambit will not work for Mulcair.

Perhaps worse, now that it no longer matters, up arise the folks who are predictably calling for a new direction for the social democratic left in Canada in the wake of the NDP catastrophe.

Congratulations. Your prescient hindsight is tremendously underwhelming.

For years absolute and abject hypocrisy have ruled the day among an important part of the talking heads and institutional leaders of the "mainstream" left and labour movement.

While they frequently claim and pretend to support radical ideas and policies -- especially if they are happening in other countries that they can spread useless internet memes about -- in the day-to-day reality of today in Canada they support do-nothing NDP politicians and actually attack and undermine those who call them out.

Which makes sense. The powerful and "big fish", even if powerful and "big fish" within a relatively small pond, want to remain as such. Challenging or changing anything would be a threat to themselves.

Now that the NDP campaign -- a campaign that many, myself included,  predicted would collapse -- has tanked we on the left must endure either inane and offensive attempts to pretend the campaign actually went well or an onslaught of those who two weeks ago supported Mulcair wholeheartedly now going on wondering about "why is there no Corbyn?" in Canada.

Why is there no radical movement to remake the NDP or Canadian left on a federal level of any consequence?

That is actually rather simple. It is because of them and them alone that there is no Corbyn like leader or the possibility of a Corbyn like left wing movement within the NDP.

For literally decades the vast bulk of the party and labour leadership, New Democrat party organizers, members, partisans and apparatchiks and many of the accepted or "acceptable" left commentators, have actively worked to prevent the emergence of any left wing vision or any leftist and grassroots driven challenge to their power and dominance.

There is no Corbyn because they have done everything they can to prevent one.

There is no Corbyn because they line up and support the NDP, nepotistic nobodies who are given nominations or supported for party positions solely due to their last names, liberal municipal politicians and whatever "strategy" and platform is handed to them to pretend to be enthusiastic and thrilled about election-after-election-after-election-after-election.

And if anyone tries to do something about this in any meaningful way these folks attack, undermine and slap them down.

Meanwhile tokenism and sloganeering substitute for action  as everyone pretends to support manifestos they have no intention of doing anything in the real world politically to make happen, rendering these flamboyant celebrity studded press conference versions of activism every bit as useless as all the other previous such grandiose much ado about nothing statements.

The reason that it is impossible to envision a Canadian Corbyn is that there is absolutely no one anywhere in any authority or with any power in the "left" in  Canada that actually either wants one, or, far more importantly, will actually do anything, at all, to help to back or create one -- including taking the first and essential step of condemning Mulcair's leadership and the party's strategy in recent elections and calling for the decisive shift.

No one.

It is also very difficult to see how there is the remotest possibility of significant change within the party's profoundly undemocratic reality that they helped to foster and create by always inevitably circling the wagons around the party when push came to shove.

If any of these people really want a new left -- a real, active, demonstrably, obviously anti-capitalist left -- they need to get off their asses and actually try to do something to create this other than twitter shares and Facebook statuses about exciting initiatives in other countries or Quebec.

They need to actually try to build a new movement or party or at least be willing to entertain the idea in a way that threatens the NDP establishment.

Otherwise, give it up and admit the obvious.

The limitations of the pathetic, neo-austerity, neo-liberal, opportunist and capitalist NDP are where their supposed radicalism lives and dies and the claims about wanting any kind of  party that will actually challenge the dominant political narratives and consensus in this country are simply a pretense and farce, which we all know they are.

Mulcair and one-or-two of his advisers may be sacrificed, though even that, as we have seen, seems increasingly unlikely.

But either way you can rest assured nothing of any meaning will change. And far from a Canadian Corbyn, in four years, yet again, we will get another repeat of this shallow sham followed by another week or two of hand-wringing wondering why the left can never present an exciting or compelling left vision by many of the very same people intent on ensuring that it does not.

See also: Delusion continues to rule the day in Mulcair NDP

See also: Doubling down on disaster

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Southern Style Chicken Wings Stove-top Deep Fried

I love chicken wings. And I am especially fond of southern style breaded or battered wings. The pleasing crunchiness of the wings seals it for me.

While I have made wings at home, I have always done so either in the oven or using the tasty technique of preparing them in both a slow cooker and the oven that I have blogged about before.

Today I am going to take a look at making deep fired southern wings and doing it on the stove top, so no deep fryer is required! I am also going to share a trick in preparing them I picked up along the way.

To make these you need wings that have been split, so either buy them already split (far easier) or do it yourself (slightly less expensive). I did multiple batches but I will give measurements for doing a single batch of around 10-15 wings, so adjust accordingly as you go and based on the number of wings you are doing.

Nicely coated with batter
For the batter you will need the following ingredients:

1 1/2 cups self-raising cake and pastry flour (Brodie makes one, but any brand works of course)
1 tablespoon cayenne powder
1 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
2 teaspoons dry mustard powder (such as those made by Keen's or Coleman's)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

While traditionally many recipes call for using standard flour, I found that the trick of using self-raising flour made the batter perfect both in its texture and golden appearance.

Combine all of these ingredients thoroughly in a large mixing bowl.

Pour a cup of milk into a separate bowl.

Take each wing, dip in and coat fully with the milk and then dredge in the batter mixture until coated on all sides, gently tapping off any excess.

Deep frying stove top style!
Meanwhile pour around two inches of vegetable oil (it has to be vegetable oil) into a large and deep saucepan. Set the burner to around the 7 mark and heat the oil until it has reached a frying temperature (this is around 350-370 degrees if you have the right kind of thermometer or visually when it begins to bubble slightly).

If you have a deep fryer you can, of course, use it, but this part of this post is aimed at those who do not or who want to keep it in the cupboard.

When the oil is good and hot add the wings one at a time slowly both to prevent any painful splashing and to prevent the oil from cooling too much as you add them.

Add until there are enough that the saucepan is full but don't overfill. You don't want the wings clumped together or touching too much or the batter won't cook properly.

Cook the wings for 8-10 minutes turning them in the oil a couple of times during the frying.

They should at this point come out a lovely golden brown with a full batter coating.

Let sit a couple moments on a platter covered with some paper towel (to absorb any excess oil) and season with some more salt and pepper if desired.

Serve with your favorite wing or BBQ sauce of choice. I mixed some Buffalo style wing sauce with some habanero hot sauce as a fiery suicide style dipping sauce but you can use whatever you want of course from plum, to honey-garlic, to Frank's, etc.

If you want to do a wing night platter serve with some carrot and celery slices, your dipping sauces and some blue cheese dressing on the side as well.

Goes perfect with ice cold beer and good company. Enjoy!

See also: Slow Cooker Chicken Wings

See also: Going for Toronto's best chicken wings with Irish Socialist leader Joe Higgins

Monday, October 26, 2015

Vena's Roti on Bloor St. -- "Best Roti in Town"

The otherwise unassuming take out joint, Vena's Roti has a window sized neon sign that greets you when you arrive proclaiming that it serves the "Best Roti in Town"!

Is it true? While that is certainly a big claim to make in a city the size of Toronto, unlike "The World's Best Coffee" claim in the movie Elf, in the case of Vena's it is not just hyperbole. If they do not serve "the best", a very subjective opinion anyway, they serve among the best West Indian style rotis and for a very good price.

Vena's is a classic "hole-in-the-wall" lunch counter style eatery. With only a couple of tables at which to dine in, when going be sure to have a take-out back up plan. 

But the food is excellent and, not surprisingly given the sign, the rotis are a genuine stand-out. 

What makes them special begins with the roti itself which is among the best I have ever had. 

Then, of course, is the West Indian style saucing and perfectly cooked ingredients. Very moist goat or chicken, beef and shrimp options, and a delicious veggie roti with spinach, chick peas, potato and squash. They are all fantastic. The meat rotis can be had with just potato or with some other ingredients like okra for an extra charge. 

If you are a fan of spice, the homemade scotch bonnet sauce is a
Veggie Roti
must. While deceptively watery in texture it packs a real punch in terms of both heat and flavour. 

All the dishes range from $9-12 with some daily specials as an option. Vena's only takes cash though, so keep that in mind.

Vena's is located at  1263 Bloor Street West, Toronto (just east of the Lansdowne subway station), and is open seven days a week from 10am to 7pm. 416-532-3665

Vena's has done important charitable work in the community

The goat and potato roti

See also: Michael's West Indian Flavor: Perfect Oxtail in New Toronto

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Only those in the NDP can explain why Thomas Mulcair still has his job

By Fraser Needham

Perhaps one of the most mystifying things in the aftermath of the 2015 Canadian federal election is that NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair still has a job.

Somehow, Mulcair and his inner-circle managed to take a party that was atop the polls when the campaign began in early August -- and sitting as Official Opposition to boot -- and by October 19 reduce the NDP to a distant third place finish while shedding 51 seats in process.

The NDP lost everywhere in this election. The party lost every single seat in Atlantic Canada; it lost in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and B.C. The NDP even lost in northern Canada.

And no one is surprised at this dismal result other than the NDP. Imagine that -- a social democratic party trying to run a right wing populist campaign that put balancing budgets ahead of its social priorities and no one bought it? Mystifying, eh? The only sad thing is a number of decent and long serving NDP MPs lost their seats because of this ill-conceived campaign.

One would have thought Mulcair would have resigned on election night?


Or, maybe in the days following the election an announcement would have come forward that he would soon step down so an interim leader can take charge and the party can prepare for a leadership convention?

No, again.

Instead, towards the end of last week, the NDP Leader and his handlers started musing that he plans to stick around for a while and that he is in “this” for the long haul. Long haul of what, you might ask? Driving the NDP down a hole to absolute oblivion?

Apparently the party needs “Tom” to stick around because he is very good in the House of Commons and will hold the new government to account. Give me a break. As if none of the other MPs in caucus are capable of leading a third party in Question Period.

The whole raison d’etre of electing Mulcair, who is a Liberal, as party leader three years ago was that he could win. Now that he has failed miserably in this goal, why is he or any of his cronies still around?


Perhaps even more amazing is that if you talk to NDP partisans it is like the whole election never happened. In fact, according to them, the party actually ran a good campaign but the only problem is those silly voters just failed to see it. And they were really done in by the party’s principled stand on the niqab in Quebec. Tell me another one.

But then again, why would Tom Mulcair and his inner-circle want to leave? People in positions of power generally don’t like to accept responsibility for failure and step down unless they are forced to.

And herein lies the problem of what has become the shell of what is the federal New Democratic Party. The hierarchy of the party says, “let’s shift right, this is what we need to do to win,” and the membership says, “sure.”

The hierarchy then throws party policy out the window, dumps good candidates during the election and appoints others because, “this is what we need to do to win.” Once again, the membership says, “sure.”

And then when voters see through the whole bogus, misguided and unethical strategy the hierarchy says, “we really did run a good campaign, it’s just that the voters are very naive and they were once again fooled by the Liberals. What can we do?”

And the membership says, “You are absolutely right! When is the next party convention and who should I make this cheque out to?”

Thomas Mulcair, you can have your job as long as you want it.

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: Delusion continues to rule the day in Mulcair NDP

See also: Doubling down on disaster

Do you have a left point-of-view or opinion, a recipe or a story you want to share?

Send them to The Left Chapter via!

Michael's West Indian Flavor: Perfect Oxtail in New Toronto

In true take-out counter spot style, Michael's West Indian Flavor is simplicity itself. A small spot, it has the food counter, a small counter you can stand at if you want to eat inside, and a very small menu of three regular dishes that is expanded with other options depending on the day.

But this basic simplicity belies the tremendous complexity of flavour of their dishes, all of which are some of the best West Indian food I have had in Toronto (and I have had a lot of it!). 

Jamaican style Oxtail, Curried Goat or Stewed Chicken with rice or rice and peas are always on the chalkboard menu, while Jerk Chicken and Spicy Fried Chicken are regularly available as well.

Michael's incredible oxtail
Everything is perfectly done, and I have tried the lot multiple times. The goat, chicken and oxtail are always done bone-in, with a different saucing for each, and are dreamily moist and fall-off-the bone cooked. I have spent years trying to duplicate the oxtail gravy at Michael's. It is simply fantastic. If you are lucky you will get a piece of seeded Scotch Bonnet hot pepper "skin" in your dish

All dishes can be had with an optional creamy slaw. They are also all available small, medium or large (and the large is really large) and range from $5-$12. They all come with rice or rice and peas as well. 

If it is a nice day you can take your food and enjoy it at one of the neigbourhood's many parks. Colonel Sam Smith Park, one of Toronto's waterfront gems, is a short walk to the west. Michael's is also on the 501 Queen streetcar line. They are located at 3067 Lake Shore Blvd. W., which is about 4 blocks west of Islington Ave.

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

See also: Going for Toronto's best chicken wings with Irish Socialist leader Joe Higgins

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Delusion continues to rule the day in Mulcair NDP

By Fraser Needham

In the 2015 Canadian federal election campaign that wrapped up earlier this week, the Justin Trudeau led Liberals won a smashing 184-seat majority government.

Perhaps what is most amazing about the Liberal victory is that the party started in third place in terms of both number of seats and in the polls when the campaign began in early August.

Not only did the Liberals win a majority, the party won every single seat in Atlantic Canada and the most seats in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and B.C. The Liberals also grabbed both seats in the Yukon and North West Territories and the party even picked up four new seats in Alberta.

In spite of coming from behind and ending close to a decade of Conservative government rule in Ottawa, no one is much surprised at the convincing Liberal victory. Unless, of course, you are NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, his inner circle, or a diehard NDP partisan.

Going into this campaign, everyone knew Stephen Harper and the Conservatives would be in tight to win a fourth mandate. The Harper government was lucky enough to win two minority governments, let alone a majority government, and time was running out on the most right wing government in Canadian history. Stephen Harper had managed to stay in government by abusing the powers of office, seeking to divide Canadians on various wedge issues to his advantage and moving about 30 per cent of the electorate over to his neoconservative values.

Nevertheless, the other 70 per cent of the electorate had become tired of the Conservatives partisan games, racism, divisiveness, secretiveness, lies and war mongering. In short, there was a sizeable anti-Harper coalition in the electorate when the campaign began and it would be looking to place its vote with either the Liberals or NDP.

And, when the campaign began, the NDP had a slight lead in the polls over the other two parties for a couple of reasons.

Thomas Mulcair had performed well in the House of Commons hammering the Harper government on such issues as the Mike Duffy Senate scandal. In contrast, Justin Trudeau was often not in the House and when he was the Liberal Leader was ineffective.

The NDP also took a very principled stand against the Harper government’s flawed and highly undemocratic Bill C-51 anti-terrorism legislation while for some strange reason Trudeau decided to support it.

The new Liberal Leader had made other gaffes too, such as deciding one day that all Liberal appointed senators would from here on in be non-partisan and independent. No one believed this and particularly not the Liberal appointed senators. At other times, Trudeau looked shaky and nervous with the media.

Maybe he was “just not ready” after all.

At the beginning of this campaign the NDP had an opportunity to win the election and form its first federal government. But that’s all it was, an opportunity, not a sure thing.

However, it is clear that Mulcair and his inner circle viewed winning the election as a sure thing as long as the NDP didn’t commit any major gaffes on the campaign trail. So the strategy was to play it safe and conduct a front runner campaign, limit media access, say as little as possible, run on a center-right platform so as not to “scare” anyone and take it for granted their base would support the party no matter what. Over the course of the eleven-week election campaign, voters would naturally see how much more prime ministerial Tom Mulcair was than Justin Trudeau and the anti-Harper coalition would automatically unite behind the NDP on election day pushing the party through to victory.

And this is precisely how Mulcair and company proceeded to blow the best chance the Federal NDP has ever had to form government.

If the NDP were going to have a chance at winning the election, the party needed to be bold not cautious, to stake out its ground on issues of historical advantage such as innovative social programming and to convince voters they would be a good government. Running the front-runner campaign always becomes the losing campaign because it allows your opponents to paint you to their benefit and makes voters suspicious that you are trying to hide something by being evasive.

All votes must be earned and not taken for granted. Assuming that your base is not fluid and will always stick behind you is also a mistake. These are the types of bad decisions that happen when arrogance rules the day and there was no shortage of hubris in the 2015 NDP election strategy.

From day one, the NDP ran a poor campaign.

This started with Mulcair refusing to take any media questions at the NDP campaign launch. Why would the party do this? Mulcair’s handlers were clearly taking a page out of the Harper playbook of limiting media access. Yet Harper is the guy you are trying to beat and that everyone is tired of. Why emulate the Conservatives? In particular, reporters find it extremely annoying when a party is trying to act like it has already won the election when it hasn’t. It is the height of arrogance.

The NDP continued to limit media access throughout the campaign. Media scrums were often cut short and sometimes Mulcair didn’t take any questions at all. Then it came out that the NDP Leader dodged Globe and Mail reporter Jeffrey Simpson for as many as eight weeks for a profile piece he was trying to do. In the end, Simpson got so frustrated that he wrote the piece without interviewing Mulcair.

It has since come out that the NDP tried to contact Simpson at the last minute to set up an interview and he refused saying it was too close to deadline and the story was done. Ethically, Simpson should have conducted the interview and added Mulcair’s comments into the story. However, there is no doubt he was thoroughly annoyed at these arrogant twits around Mulcair dodging him for two months and had had enough. The point is, why was the NDP, of all times, going out of its way to alienate reporters in the middle of an election campaign? Remember, respect and trust has to be earned.

The second major mistake the NDP campaign made was choosing to work against the party leader’s attributes and not with them. Thomas Mulcair is an attack dog politician. This is who he is and the type of politician he has been all his life. It is what has brought him success. However, because the NDP wizards that spend 90 per cent of their time on the Hill heard that a few reporters in the press gallery found Mulcair a bit too acerbic when he dealt with the media, all of a sudden “Angry Tom” had to go.

Hence the bearded teddy bear appeared on the campaign trail flashing wooden and fake smiles at the cameras every opportunity he got. The phoniness of it all was painful to watch and you actually felt sorry for Mulcair that his handlers were forcing him to keep up this idiocy. The media saw through it and voters did too. The only people who didn’t see through it were his handlers because they kept getting him to do it.

The third and most fatal mistake the Mulcair team made in the campaign was the “we will balance every single budget, come hell or high water, boom time or recession” pledge. Obviously the Liberal strategists had been doing some research on the issue of balanced budgets and were more aware of the current reality -- as opposed to the dunderheads around the NDP leader.

First, Canada has a very healthy debt to GDP ratio so selling bonds at reasonable interest rates is not a problem. This, of course, was not the case in the early 1990’s. Second, world interest rates are at record lows so running reasonable deficits is not costly or harmful to the long-term health of the economy. Third, Canada has very good economic growth forecasts. Fourth, someone may have wanted to remind the NDP that the previous Conservative government had just run seven consecutive deficits and no one batted an eye.

The Liberal campaign strategists knew all of this very well and also knew the economy needed some stimulus and infrastructure investment. Hence, they pledged to run a few deficits if elected to fund an infrastructure program before balancing the budget by the end of the first term.

At this point, in late August, the NDP campaign strategists should have taken a deep breath and seriously thought about how they would respond to the Liberal's deficit pledge. The most prudent response would have been to emphasize that the two most important things the party wanted to do was bring in an affordable childcare program and a universal pharmacare program. If this meant running a few deficits, so be it. At the same time, even if the NDP ran a few deficits, the party could have said it was confident it could balance the budget by the end of the term while keeping these as the key priorities.

However, as we all know, this is not what happened. In the NDP’s obsession to outflank the Liberals on the right, the party’s response to the Liberal deficit pledge was, again, that it would balance each and every budget if elected to office. And there is no doubt Mulcair’s team made this pledge before they had costed the platform.

So from here on in, Mulcair struggled to answer how he would balance budgets without significantly raising taxes or scrapping the party’s social program pledges. And, not surprisingly, he never really had an answer.

And soon key social programs like affordable childcare and universal pharmacare began to fall by the way side. If it was the difference between balancing the budget or not, these social programs would not happen until the end of the first term. Or maybe the end of the second term. Or maybe not at all.

Mulcair and the NDP strategists began doing lots of whining about how Tommy Douglas balanced all budgets when he was Saskatchewan premier and they were just following his lead. The only thing they forgot to mention is that Tommy Douglas never ran a campaign with the key focus being balancing budgets.

If he had, the CCF would have never been elected in Saskatchewan. Douglas won elections by promising to bring in public auto insurance, rural electrification, a trade union act, a human rights act, preventing farm foreclosures and many other social programs – all of which the CCF delivered on in short order. Sure, Medicare was not implemented until 1962 but this was after a lot of other things had already been accomplished.

The key point is Mulcair’s team forgot the wise and important adage that political parties need to fight campaigns on their own ground in order to be successful. The NDP’s ground is innovative social programming. This is the area where the party has thrived and gained the respect of Canadians. Fiscal prudence is the ground of the Conservatives and Liberals but never the NDP.

Provincial NDP governments have been very good at managing finances but nobody cares and the party will never get credit for it. Just like the Conservatives will never get credit for innovations in Medicare. This is not their ground; it is the NDP’s ground.

Once the NDP was fighting the campaign on fiscal prudence and balancing budgets, they were losing and the party never recovered. It was the turning point of the campaign and why the party slid so badly in the polls in Ontario after the pledge.

After this, the media and most of the public stopped taking Mulcair’s NDP seriously. They were no longer credible. And the anti-Harper coalition began to coalesce around Trudeau and the Liberals who were running a very solid retail campaign. From here on in it was a two party fight between the Liberals and the Conservatives and the NDP was assured third place. In other words, Mulcair was dead in the water by the end of August and the polls showed this as the Liberals continued to gain momentum.

Liberal momentum continued to grow in all provinces before really taking effect in the last two weeks of the campaign as the anti-Harper coalition stampeded over to the party. Knowing they were in trouble and that efforts to make the ballot question about the Harper government’s good management of the economy (false, of course) had failed, in a last and desperate move to hold on to power the Conservatives tried to shift the election to divisive issues such the niqab, reluctance to take in Syrian refugees and the "barbaric practices" tip line.

None of this had any effect on the NDP campaign. The NDP was already out of it and all but irrelevant. What it did do is shore up some of Harper’s base but at the same time it ensured even more voters were going to come out and vote Liberal to oust the government.

There are a good number of NDP apologists who fail to realize all the mistakes the party made in the campaign prior to when niqab became an issue and who say Mulcair’s principled stand on the issue was why the party lost so many seats in Quebec.

This is utter nonsense. Those voters for whom the niqab was a serious issue voted for both the Bloc Quebecois and Conservatives and both parties saw some very minor gains. However, the real story in Quebec, as in the rest of the country, was the tremendous growth of the Liberals. As in all other parts of the country, by late September, the anti-Harper coalition in Quebec had lined up solidly behind the Liberals and abandoned the NDP.

They did this in spite of past misgivings about the Trudeau name and the Liberal sponsorship scandal. The key issue in Quebec, as most other parts of the country, was ousting Harper and voters in this province were no different than those in other provinces in realizing the NDP was “just not ready.” And for NDP apologists to say the sole reason the NDP lost seats in Quebec was because of Mulcair’s stance on the niqab is a joke. In particular because Trudeau came out harder against the Harper government on the niqab than did Mulcair.

We are now closing in on a week since the Liberal election victory and not surprisingly the other parties are already moving on. Stephen Harper has stepped down as Conservative leader and the party is making plans to choose an interim leader and then organize a leadership convention. A number of Conservative MPs, past and present, are speaking frankly that the party had become too negative under Harper and it needs to change if the Conservatives are to expand their base. Gilles Duceppe has also stepped down as Bloc Quebecois Leader as this party looks to rebuild, if that is even possible. It is business as usual in the Green Party and don’t expect much to change there as Elizabeth May is more than happy to have the party be largely irrelevant as long as she continues to get some media attention.

However, talking about the main parties, it is only in the NDP where there is no indication of a change in course. As was the case during the campaign, those in the inner circle continue to blame everyone else for the party’s failures.

When the NDP campaign began to crumble, they first blamed the mainstream media for giving overly favourable coverage to Trudeau. When each and every polling company showed big time momentum for the Liberals compared to an epic slide for the NDP, they screamed all the pollsters were wrong and the NDP was much stronger than indicated.

And, when the NDP got solidly thumped on election day, the partisans now blame the voters for being naive and being duped by the Liberals as some sort of alternative to the Conservatives when the NDP is the only “real” alternative. This again is, of course, nonsense as the NDP very happily ran a campaign to the right of the Liberals and the Justin Trudeau Liberals are very different from the Stephen Harper Conservatives.

For those in the NDP, the bottom line is never to look in the mirror even in times of total failure.

And perhaps what is most alarming is that Thomas Mulcair is now musing about staying on as party leader for an indefinite period of time. Why? Because his superior oratory skills in Parliament are supposedly needed to hold the new Liberal government to account. The same skills that gained the NDP absolutely zero on the campaign trail. Does anyone really believe that none of the remaining MPs could step in and perform the role of a third party leader on an interim basis?

The NDP just ran one of the most disastrous campaigns in Canadian history. Dropping from first to third in polling and shedding 51 seats in the process. And, to those leading the party, it is as if none of it ever happened.

If Mulcair and his cronies won’t step down, the caucus should show them the door. But there are no indications at present that this will happen either. This likely says a lot about the weakness of current NDP elected representatives.

In either the Conservatives or Liberals, such incompetence, ineptitude and failure would not be tolerated. But not in the NDP, where delusion always seems to rule the day.

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: Doubling down on disaster

See also: Catastrophe: The NDP lost because it deserved to

Do you have a left point-of-view or opinion, a recipe or a story you want to share?

Send them to The Left Chapter via!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Doubling down on disaster

In the wake of the catastrophic election result for the NDP -- an election that saw the party squander its position as official opposition and "government-in-waiting" and what seemed its first real shot at power -- comes news that the leader who "led" the party there, Tom Mulcair, intends to stay at the helm.

And seemingly, apparently, not in some understandable caretaker role while the party finds a new face to try to mount a comeback, but for the foreseeable future:


“He’s in it for the long haul,” his spokesman, George Smith, told the Star after Mulcair spent the past two days speaking to both elected and defeated NDP MPs as he works to rebuild his team.
“Expect to see him in the House of Commons,” Smith said of Mulcair, who was re-elected to his Montreal riding of Outremont Monday night with about 44 per cent of the vote. “Expect him to hold the new government’s feet to the fire.”

While an utterly suicidal move for the NDP, (a point to which we will return), and one that would not happen in any other party, in the NDP for a variety of reasons this kind of politically blind insanity is nothing new.

Hence we saw Andrea Horwath, the ONDP leader whose bankrupt and opportunist strategy in the 2014 election helped to drive away essential Toronto progressive voters and to hand a totally unanticipated majority to the Liberals, not only remain as leader but actually get a higher approval vote from party delegates at the party's next convention!

While to those outside the political culture of the NDP this is no doubt mystifying, it is part-and-parcel of a party narrative that externalizes blame and responsibility for its own actions.

When a campaign begins to or does unravel or tank it is always the fault of the media, "elites", strategic voting, leftists, progressive voters who "don't understand that the Liberals are not progressive and are the same as the Conservatives", etc, etc, etc.

It is never the strategy of the NDP itself, of its core "strategists", of its narratives or of its leaders.

This convenient unwillingness to engage in any meaningful self-criticism flows at least in part from an essential fiction that is shared by the remaining party members and its leadership cliques alike -- that being that the NDP is still the grand party of principle that it was in the past and that. despite all of the evidence, it is still a party that is fundamentally different than all the others.

This collectively maintained group-think delusion is why every election we see the paint-by-numbers denunciations by New Democrats of anyone who dares to deny this mythology and the standard calls for "unity" and "solidarity with the party and leadership" with the claims that criticism should wait until some magical day that never comes.

That this allows obvious ineptitude by the leadership and signs of impending doom, which were visible to everyone but New Democrats themselves in the days leading up to October 19, to go unchallenged and proceed unabated to disaster does not seem to dawn on anyone in any serious way.

It does the party far more harm than good.

This "circle-the wagons" mentality is critical to understanding not only why the party so often seems to repeat the same mistakes, but also why without a major cleaning of the house at the top, absolutely nothing will change.

Especially when seen in conjunction with the NDP's ever more centralized and undemocratic nature and structure which makes the possibility of serious reform from within increasingly remote and quite possibly even impossible.

A very large number of activists, and certainly most of those who believe the party should have a culture of criticism and accountability regarding the leadership, have already left.

Tom Mulcair remaining as leader will ensure that this cycle simply repeats. It will prevent any serious criticism and rethinking of the direction the party has taken to the right and centre over the last few years for the obvious reason that this would have to of necessity involve a serious critiquing of Mulcair's thinking and strategy and that of the staffers around him! Real change for the NDP requires a fundamental questioning of the way the party has been run and has presented itself in its quest to supplant the Liberals as Canada's natural opposition to the Conservatives and even whether this quest, framed as such, is really what should be the party's objective at all.

The NDP did not lose despite the leadership and strategy of Mulcair and the NDP's senior strategists and core leadership, it lost because of them.

The total fiction that the fault lies without will linger on as the narrative until the party and its members accept this reality and cut loose the Third Way, neo-populist and strikingly unprincipled leadership cadres that hang as an albatross around the neck of what once was Canada's social democratic party.

 See also: Catastrophe: The NDP lost because it deserved to

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Catastrophe: The NDP lost because it deserved to

It is, ultimately, astounding how facile and false political narratives come back to haunt those who insist on their veracity.

And so it has happened with the "government-in-waiting" liberal led NDP.

After being aggressively told that the "left" needed a leader like Tom Mulcair to shed its "radical" and "left" image, the party has been delivered to its worst defeat in its history. While it is true that the party will have a final number of seats that a generation ago would have seemed a victory, yesterday's results are a terrible setback.

An almost existential defeat.

We were fed the line that the sacrifices of principle were necessary. It was claimed they would produce electoral results.

But like taste tests between Coke and Coke Zero, this proved a chimera. When the NDP sought to be another "liberal" government in waiting with the dour Mulcair at the helm the people chose an obviously inspiring Liberal leader in Trudeau instead.

And why not?

Canadians were offered two versions of "progressive" liberalism. Unsurprisingly, the more "inspiring" one won.

This was not due to the NDP running a "principled" campaign as some claim. It did not. It was not due, as some are conveniently suggesting, to the "niqab" issue either. If it were why did the NDP slide in the polls begin in Ontario after the "balanced budget" pledge the NDP made and why did Trudeau do so well in Quebec despite taking just as strong a stand on the issue?

The fact is, despite all the insults, Justin Trudeau proved a capable and even a remarkable leader. It turned out he had the very characteristics that over the course of a campaign the people wanted and that the pundits and the "strategists" running the NDP campaign misunderstood and lacked.

The NDP. almost like some slow motion suicide, mimicked the catastrophic campaigns of the Ontario NDP, Olivia Chow and others. They also massively underestimated Trudeau, as did everyone else.

Like moths to the flame they began from seeming positions of advantage and used those to justify right wing narratives as a path to power.

As if this was the UK in 1997 without any notion that Tony Blair was, in the end, a disaster,

The fact is, it was obvious that the Trudeau "left shift" would work. Many of us called it from day one. No one cares about deficits anymore. No one regards balanced budgets as a priority.

Only the NDP and its partisans failed to see the ground had shifted. The terrain has changed.

The illusion of Official Opposition  became the bitter pill of capitulation to political "realism".

The NDP has been wiped out in a number of regions. Annihilated in Atlantic Canada. Decimated in Quebec. Literally obliterated in Ontario and Toronto which was a must to win to power. It failed to make much ground in the west where its alleged fiscal "conservatism" was supposed to deliver results.

It has not.

At what point do we acknowledge that the NDP's strategy has failed? At what point do we acknowledge that "winning" will neither happen this way nor be worth it if it did?

At what point do we acknowledge the "Third Way" is a bankrupt place to campaign from?

Could the NDP have won? Yes. It could, had it had a better brand and set of strategists, have supplanted the Liberals once and for all as the new flavour of bourgeois opposition.

Given that it has not, maybe it is time to turn back to where the NDP came from. Back before Tom Mulcair and Jack Layton.

At this point it would seem there would be little to lose.

And the NDP might actually mean something politically again.

image via twitter

Editor's Note: The piece has been changed from an earlier version that stated that the NDP had been devastated in the west to state instead that it failed to make much ground in the west. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sauteed Seasoned Chicken Breasts in a Garlic Mushroom Sauce

Today I want to take a look at one of my favourite ways to make chicken breast.

While this recipe works equally well with boneless skinless chicken thighs, it is designed for boneless skinless chicken breast.

While Italian seasoning can be used -- or oregano, salt and pepper -- this dish also benefits greatly from the use of a Herbs-de-Provence seasoning blend.

The first step is to take about 2 cups
of sliced fresh mushrooms, season them liberally with the Herbs-de-Provence seasoning and salt and pepper to taste, and saute them in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) in a large saucepan over medium high heat for about 5 minutes until tender and golden brown.

Remove the mushrooms from the saucepan and set aside. Do not drain or clean the pan.

Now take 4-6 chicken breasts and also season liberally with the herb blend and salt and pepper to taste. Add some more EVOO to the pan and then brown the chicken breasts 5 minutes a side over medium-high heat.

When fully browned, set aside the breasts on a platter and add 3-4 minced cloves of garlic to the pan. Saute the garlic for around 2 minutes over medium heat taking care not to burn it, add the breasts back to the pan atop the sauteed garlic, top the breasts with the sauteed mushrooms and then cover the breasts and the mushrooms with cream of mushroom soup.

You will need 2-3 medium sized (541 ml.) cans of ready made cream of mushroom soup so as to fully cover the breasts. If you do not have ready made, simply use condensed and blend with the required amount of milk prior to adding to the pan.

Season again over top with the herb blend, cover, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and simmer for 15 minutes more until fully cooked. (If unsure chicken breasts are fully cooked when they have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees at the thickest point).

Serve covered with the garlic mushroom sauce.

This delicious dish goes perfectly with rice or egg noodles, pairs well with white or red wine and is great with a rustic style country bread or baguette.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sardine Sandwich with Sauteed Spinach, Garlic & Jalapeno

I am a big fan of the lowly, oft-maligned canned sardine. In fact, I love opening a can and having them with some fried eggs, buttered toast and some lemon and hot sauce on the side as a terrific weekend brunch / breakfast or a late night snack.

But today I am going to share a more "fancy" use for the canned sardines in your pantry, and one that is really, really delicious -- a sardine
sandwich with sautéed spinach, garlic and jalapenos served with a special sauce.

You will almost think your 99 cent can has gone gourmet!

First, take some extra virgin olive oil and heat to medium-hot in a saucepan. Then add 3 cloves of minced garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add a handful of baby spinach leaves and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Finally add some chopped jalapeno slices, pickled or fresh, and sauté for 2-3 minutes more.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix up a blend of a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise and a teaspoon or two of a hot sauce of your choosing. Tabasco works well as does Cholula. I used El Yucatero's fiery habanero sauce.

Take a good sized piece of a bread you like (I used a medium rye), toast it and top with the sauce.

Then, top with the sautéed spinach, garlic and jalapeno blend.

Finally top with three sardines. I like to alternate their direction but that is purely aesthetic.

You can then eat this open-faced or like a traditional sandwich.

Absolutely terrific! It is also good with a couple slices of tomato and/or a leaf of romaine lettuce. You can squirt some lemon juice on the sardines as well.

A great lunch and a great way to enjoy canned sardines.

See also: The Reuben Dog!

See also: The Leviathan Sauerkraut & Horseradish Double Pork & Beef Burger!

Lake of Bays Brewery combines beer, football and a good cause with its Pigskin Pilsner

 Lake of Bays Brewing Company is an Ontario craft brewery based out of Baysville in the province's Muskoka region.

They have a number of beers worth checking out, including their Crosswind Pale Ale and their Rock Cut Lager which are both terrific.

Recently the brewery released a limited time only pilsner that combines three of my favourite things -- beer (of course), football and a good cause.

Their Pigskin Pilsner, which comes in a spectacular 1.89 litre jug, is a really good beer that also sees a portion of its sales going to the Canadian Football League Alumni Association (CFLAA).

The CFLAA has as its mission uniting former CFL players in support of:
-sport, youth, and health-related and charitable causes;
-former CFL players experiencing a medical challenge that creates a financial hardship; and
-promoting football in the community
Given that many CFL players spent their carriers in the league earning far less than their NFL counterparts, this assistance, as well as the work they do in the broader community, is often I am sure greatly needed.

The pilsner itself has all the complex flavour you expect of a craft brew, but is also very smooth and has a lighter taste that makes it easy to drink and that pairs it well with any of the assorted fare you might want to have while watching a CFL (or Blue Jays playoff) game -- from chips and pretzels to pizza and chili.

At $15.95 (in Ontario) it is nicely priced for the size. Be sure to pick one up before they are gone! It is, apparently, available nationwide.

In Ontario it is available at the LCBO.

The 2015 Federal Election on The Left Chapter in review -- A round-up

During the course of this unusually long federal election campaign The Left Chapter saw 34 posts that were directly related to it.

These ranged from a look at the Liberal's "unicorn and fairy dust" fiscal plan, to the dangerous emergence of dog-whistle, racist politics, to views on why not voting is not the unconscionable option so many present it as.

But, when it came to what Left Chapter readers read the most, all of the top posts were related to the NDP and the, to us, mystifying campaign they ran.

As we head into the last weekend before the vote, here are the top five directly election related posts, in terms of hits, on The Left Chapter since the writ dropped:

1) NDP campaign enters panic mode

By Fraser Needham

If in politics a week can be a lifetime, a month can be an eternity – especially in an election campaign.

Just put yourself in the shoes of NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s top strategists to see how much things can change over the course of four weeks. On a late August afternoon when members of the Mulcair team looked out on a bright and sunny day from the confines of the NDP war room, they must have been feeling pretty confident about themselves.

Read More! 

2) 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.

Read More!

3) Morgan Wheeldon, Israel and the triumph of neo-conservative dogma

It would seem that, as with climate change, any serious discussion or criticism of Israel is now essentially forbidden in mainstream politics in Canada -- including within the NDP.

On the heels of backtracking on a perfectly reasonable and, in fact, scientifically factual comment made by star candidate Linda McQuaig about the oilsands, the NDP has now, quite literally, erased the candidacy of Morgan Wheeldon in  Nova Scotia over comments he made critical of Israel's attacks on the Palestinians.

Read More! 

4) Mulcair doubles-down on the NDP's right shift by defending Thatcherism

This week is the week where I think it can officially be said that the NDP leadership "jumped the shark" from any pretense at ties with its roots as a social democratic labour party to a straight-up and very open embrace of Blairite centrism and neo-liberal "progressiveism.

Read More!

5) The NDP and budget deficits: Not the Tommy Douglas vision

By Fraser Needham

The 2015 Canadian federal election took another strange turn this week.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair committed that his first budget as prime minister would be a balanced one. This seems somewhat strange as Canada appears to be headed into a recession and if the current Conservative government has struggled to maintain services in recent years without running deficits, in what have been stronger economic times, the only way a new government could balance the budget in a weaker economy would be through substantial cuts. The minor revenues gained by an NDP government canceling income splitting for high-income earners and a modest corporate tax increase would not be enough to maintain current spending levels in an economic downturn, let alone meet other campaign commitments such as a national childcare plan.

Read More!

Do you have a left point-of-view or opinion, a recipe or a story you want to share? Send them to The Left Chapter via!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

McCall's Casserole Cookbook w. Beef Pie, Boston Baked Beans, Lamb Moussaka & more -- Vintage Cookbook TBT

Vintage Cookbook: McCall's Casserole Cookbook (illustrations by Joyce Mazur Slan 

Publication Details: Advance Publishers, 1965

This week's installment looks at a cookbook that reflects the good, the bad and the very bad of its time almost in equal measure.

McCall's Casserole Cookbook is full of many classic, timeless recipes for casseroles and savory pies. Some of these never go out of style and are especially great at this time of year as they are often the ultimate comfort food and some of the best of North American home cooking.

Others are hilariously dated. While "Hot-Dog-And-Macaroni Casserole" and "Hot-Dog-And-Eggplant Casserole' spring to mind, four recipes that we have included here are, believe it or not, even less appetizing!

But the rest are terrific and with many, many recipes we have not included as well as entire sections devoted to casserole bread making and dessert casseroles, among other things, this one is well worth seeking out.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Two solid recipes and then...."Luncheon-Meat Casserole"!!!

All these are...ummm..."special". The thought of Tongue Casserole is, well...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In defense of the non-voter

By A.M.

It's a familiar theme around election time. You're talking with someone about the candidates on offer. You discuss the few strengths and many weaknesses of each party. You talk about how useless they all are; how meaningless your one vote is; and how none of the parties seem to actually be standing up for everyday people like yourself. Inevitably, you arrive at the same conclusion you always do: you'll line up, grit your teeth, and vote for the least objectionable candidate you can. Disappointed, but proud to live in such a vibrant democracy, you go down to your local polling centre and vote for yet another wealthy, boring and totally inoffensive lawyer/business owner. Your job is done!

Or is it? Is a single vote, every four years, really the most involved we can be in the governance of our own lives? Like a bad cold that you can't kick, every election - at every level - saturates us with messages about the shame associated with not voting. We are told that our brave ancestors (typically, soldiers and white politicians) fought and died for us to be able to line up and cast a ballot. I myself have been persuaded by this very logic. The first election in which I was eligible to vote was the Toronto municipal election of 2010. Thoroughly unimpressed by the big business candidates, Rob Ford and George Smitherman, I checked out Joe Pantalone. As the consensus left-winger, he must have had some great ideas, right?

Wrong. Here was a desperately uninspiring candidate, complete with the usual platitudes about partnering with industry and "greening" Toronto's economy. I made my mind up not to vote, only to be rebuffed by several friends. Not only did I cave to them, I fell prey the (very effective) campaign put on by Smitherman to position himself as the "anti-Ford." To my shame, then and now, I cast a ballot for a Bay Street blowhard. I truly understand the tactical (and occasionally moral) imperative of strategic voting. I get why people will vote "Anything But Harper," just as I voted "Anything But Ford" in 2010. But I think there needs to be room in the strategic voting conversation for the large number of us who don't want to vote, for any number of reasons.

At dinner last week, my mother - a nurse - asked us who we were going to vote for, and would any of the parties be expanding health care funding? Our answer, of course, was a resounding "no." My brother stated that he was going to vote Green because of their plan to eliminate tuition for post-secondary students. It's a fine, principled reason to vote, and one for which my brother should be proud. My sister simply expressed the view that she would not be voting NDP, and left it at that. I told my mother that I would not be voting, to which she expressed very visible shock.

A few nights later, I asked my sister why she wouldn't vote for the NDP. She told me that it was because I had expressed very vocal opposition to the New Democrats. I expressed the view that no one should vote a certain way because of something that someone else tells them. I suggested that she do some reading on which candidates she liked, or which policies she wanted to see implemented. She responded that she didn't want to bother with politics, because whatever the outcome, there was no party that could truly be trusted to stand up for regular people. That was probably the most politically astute thing I've ever heard her or anyone else say. I told her I agreed with her 100%, and that it was a totally reasonable position from which to not be politically engaged.

My sister may not realize it, but she was reflecting a very important and difficult political truth. Even though she couldn't give you a basic history of Canadian socialism, or tell you what the neo-liberal assault is, she can speak to those truths within her own life. She is so far removed from mainstream political discourse, her values so different from those of the political elites, that she simply tunes our politics out. And she is perfectly justified in doing so. She's not bored, or stupid, or apathetic, or any one of the million insults hurled at the nearly 50% of people who refuse to vote. She is hyper-aware that her concerns, whether economic, social or cultural, are irrelevant to mainstream political elites. Her refusal to engage is a reflection not of ignorance, but of the recognition that she, like nearly all of us, is politically and economically disposable.

Working class people, social assistance recipients, immigrants, queer and racialized people, and especially women...these are all groups that are simply not being paid attention to by any of the mainstream, capitalist political parties (with the occasional exception of the Greens). It simply does not fit the mold of our current politics to talk about opening more shelters for rape victims, or building public housing for the homeless, or allowing more refugees to cross our border. Why on Earth should these groups of Canadians vote in a general election? How, exactly, will an NDP and/or Liberal government benefit them? Will their eye and dental care magically be paid for by a government that has no interest in it? Will their relatives in war zones now be able to come to Canada in search of a better life? The answers are obvious.

One of the more vile justifications put forward for continued participation in our ridiculous election pageants is the idea that if you don't vote, you have no right to complain. This is deeply offensive on several levels. First, the idea is ridiculous on its very face. As a matter of basic human rights, you have the right to express your distaste for government policies, cultural ideas, and so on. Whether or not you cast a ballot - one out of millions - has no bearing on your right to do so. Then there is the truly unnerving conception that voting for a political candidate is the height of democratic expression. Elections matter, it is true, and anyone who feels so inclined can and should vote for a candidate they believe in, or against a truly despicable figure like Stephen Harper. But what about people's movements like Occupy and Idle No More? Are they not expressions of democratic will? What about the groundswell of opposition to Rob Ford's plan to close public libraries? Maybe it's just me being a utopian, but I thought that that battle was the most inspiring and important in the recent history of Toronto politics. The opposition worked, as it has around the world, all without casting a single ballot. Democracy means much, much more than the name you tick off on a piece of paper every few years.

As for my own political circumstances in this election, the choice has actually been relatively hard. I would, of course, never vote either Conservative or Liberal. The Conservatives regularly poll at about 5-8% in my riding, Toronto-Danforth, and haven't been competitive here in fifty years. The battle, as usual, will come down to the NDP and Liberals. My local NDP MP, Craig Scott, is actually one of the more principled figures in the House of Commons. He has worked tirelessly on issues surrounding Canada's queer communities, as well as working for democratic reform. Scott has worked internationally in human rights law, and should be respected for his principles and contribution to justice. The local Liberal candidate, Julie Dabrusin, is a neighbour of mine and a pretty typical Liberal. She was once a corporate lawyer, and is an active parent at the school her children attend (which I once did, in fact). She seems to be a decent enough person, if a tad unprincipled. For both personal and political reasons I cannot vote for her.

My plan is to watch the local polls closely and see how tight the Liberals make the race in Toronto-Danforth. If there is any doubt of Craig Scott's victory, I will grit my teeth and cast a ballot for him, but not his party. It's a subtle distinction, but one that is important. The circumstances in your riding are likely much different than mine. I urge you to take all issues into account, and vote how you feel.

If that means sitting it out, know that your choice is valid. One day your voice will be heard again when we come out of the wilderness of our ugly politics.

A.M. is a writer in Toronto. 

See also: Shades of Grey -- A Left Chapter look at strategy, tactics and endorsements in the 2015 election

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

Do you have a left point-of-view or opinion, a recipe or a story you want to share? Send them to The Left Chapter via!

Stopping the leprechauns and other follies from week ten of the 2015 election -- A Left Chapter round-up

This is the tenth and final 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) This photo!

Could a picture more perfectly embody the ugliness of an entire campaign? Is this a cheap shot? Perhaps...but far less of a cheap shot than those Duceppe has taken by trying to reestablish his party in parliament via dog-whistle politics and on the backs of vilifying women from a racialized and marginalized community.

2) If re-elected I will also make sure leprechauns are not allowed to roam down the streets of Ottawa anymore either. 

I can be stopped...but not if you vote Liberal or NDP.
So...the election is not going as well as planned and our venerable Prime Minister needs something to get certain "old stock" Canadians all worked up about. What better than musing about banning all those nefarious niqab wearing women who have infiltrated our public sector and are destroying openness in Canada by providing services to Canadians and doing their jobs while wearing their chosen religious headdress.

This seems worthwhile right? Because we all know how liberating it would be for these women to be forced to either lose their employment or abandon a strongly held belief under government compulsion.

And how many women would the Great Crusader emancipate by taking away their livelihood? Apparently none as their seem to be no public sector workers who wear a niqab.

But, when you need a dead cat, facts mean nothing and considering a ban of a non-existent "problem" makes perfect sense. 

3) He is French. That seems treasonous in-and-of-itself.

Here Conservative mastermind Brad Butt explains that they are NOT talking about taking away anyone's citizenship because anyone whose citizenship they did take away would still be a citizen of another country. Right? Get it. Even though their Canadian citizenship would be taken away, the government would not be taking away people's citizenship.

Roll that one around your head a few more times.

Oh...and by the way...did you know Tom Mulcair is also French! As in a citizen of France? How does this matter? Watch the video and this moron will fill you in.

4) To dream the far less than impossible dream.

We are on the verge of the New Jerusalem!
And by "on the verge" I mean further away than ever.
NDP releases very modest election plan that aims to achieve not much of anything. Calls this plan "Building the country of our dreams". 

Not sure anything more needs to be said about this one. 

5) Rules...who cares about the rules? The point is to make it has hard as possible to vote! 

Elections Canada: Making it as hard as possible for you to do this. 

You would think that the folks working at the polling stations for Elections Canada would actually know the rules about what is required to vote. I mean, they have been trained, right? And, some things, such as the fact the you do NOT need photo ID to vote are pretty basic.

Well...apparently not, as one Saskatoon woman discovered when she went to cast her ballot. She was immediately asked if she had brought photo ID. And apparently she is far from the only person who has been incorrectly told that this was required.

Perhaps an inevitable result of a paranoid new election law that aims to stamp out completely non-existent and fictional election fraud. 

Thus ends our final installment looking at the Grand Farce. At this time next week it will all be long last.

Thanks to everyone for all their tips. This feature has been enough fun and gotten enough positive feedback that a new broader continuing look at the inanity of politics both here and abroad may be making a return in the near future!