The federal CCF-NDP has now lost 20 straight elections. In an electorate 700,000 bigger than in 1997, the NDP got 345,000 fewer votes. It caught a break in Windsor-St. Clair to win its first Ontario seat since 1988. Going back to the party's roots won't help; the roots have died. The best hope for recovery is a new identity. The CCF did this when its supporters agreed to rebody it as the NDP.
This wouldn't require a spiteful debate about whether the NDP's a failure and who's to blame. When Microsoft issues a new version of Windows, no one says Bill Gates failed. The NDP achieved everything it could. Declare the party a success and release an upgrade.
A new name would help (and distance the party from unpopular provincial NDPs). So would an innovative, voter-friendly platform.
How about a health court where patients and caregivers could appeal slipshod care or unreasonable waits? What about an end to patronage as we know it, and having the public service commission clear all appointments? Why not hand the surplus to poor kids as training RSPs, savings accounts (ask the banks to chip in), scholarships and food vouchers?
What about variable gas taxes so pump prices don't spike when oil companies push through OPEC's hikes?
How about making corporate campaign contributions secret? Let companies, unions and individuals give all they want to Elections Canada in trust, earmarked for each party. But don't let the parties know where the cash came from.
Rick Mercer's Internet petition on Stockwell (Doris) Day ridiculed the CA referendum plank, but it proved something important: Canadians are taking to e-politics. The NDP should champion Web democracy.
If Chretien retires at the Liberals' 2002 policy conference, Canadians could be back at the polls in 24 months as the next Grit chief seeks a mandate. The NDP could spend its time till then arguing about the 2000 election and whether it has turned too left or got too cozy with business or sold out to Blairism. However, the real debate in politics for the 21st-century progressive is not between left and right, but death or growth.