Canadian Government

Purpose:

Students will identify Canadian political leaders and their parties. Students will gain an understanding of how public opinion (voters) can influence government.

Time:

1 class period to introduce the lesson, about 50 minutes
15 minutes a day to collect and record news articles

Materials:

  • Copies of daily newspapers
  • Scissors
  • Bulletin board
  • 4 colours of highlighter
  • Stapler

Teacher’s Note:

The lesson ideas provided for the study of Canadian government should be introduced after some time has been spent discussing the function of government, the roles of the three levels of government and the political party system in Canada. Try to time the study of this unit with an opening session of Parliament.

If you’re covering a unit on Canadian government during an election year, you’re in luck. During an election campaign, newspapers make every effort to give equal time to all political parties. In the months and weeks leading up to an election, there will be profiles written on the key candidates and thumbnail sketches for candidates competing for less high profile positions. Newspapers will also provide ward profiles, summing up the local issues in a reader friendly package that generally includes a map of the ward and photographs of the candidates. Leadership debates will be covered and critiqued as the excitement builds to Election Day. From the election signs on the neighbours front lawn to candidate’s advertisements in a variety of media, students will see and hear reminders that an election is coming.

In a non-election year, there are always controversial issues facing the government. Newspapers, more than any other media, can make the study of Canada’s electoral process less abstract for students. By reading newspaper coverage of national, provincial and municipal issues, students will gain a better understanding of life in a democratic society.

The Lesson:

  1. Bring to class copies of Canada’s national newspapers as well as the local daily newspaper. This must be done for the duration of the project; it can also be timed to follow a particular issue of interest to the class. The news coverage of Parliament will be used to help students define political party roles, government functions and the role of public opinion.
  2. Divide the class into four political parties – Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois. Assign each political party a highlighter colour. Each party must pick a leader. Once a leader is chosen the entire class should vote by secret ballot on a Speaker of the House of Commons. It will be the Speaker’s role (he or she must be impartial) to recognize Members of Parliament when they wish to make a motion or speak to a motion. This job will come into play during a debate (the culminating task). Tell students that each day members from the four Parties will read thorough the news section and select stories written about MP’s, or the federal government.
  3. When stories have been selected, students should cut them out of the paper. Each party representative must read the news story and highlight any part in which a member of their party is mentioned. They will share this information with party members.
  4. Create a bulletin board for the news stories. The board can be divided into four sections, one for each political party or you may choose to wait a few days and see if issues emerge that might make good debate topics. In either case, the stories should be visible to the entire class.

Evaluation:

Check for understanding of key concepts by reviewing the stories selected and discussing in the class emerging issues.