Gary Mason reviews the race for the leadership of the federal Conservative Party, noting that whoever is chosen, he or she will likely not win a federal election. In an associated article on November 2, Lisa Raitt launches bid to become next Conservative Party leader, Laura Stone reports on one contender’s campaign.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events

Key Question to Explore:

  • Who is running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada and what are some of the challenges that await the winner?

New Terminology:

Chronicles, formidable, slog, milquetoast, poisoned chalice

Materials Needed:

Globe articles, the Internet


Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

When Stephen Harper lost the last federal election in October, 2015, he immediately resigned as leader of the Conservative Party he had helped to create. Rona Ambrose stepped in as interim leader on the understanding that she would not seek the post permanently. A leadership race began soon after and to date there are 10 candidates running for the Party’s top job, the most recent being Lisa Raitt, a popular cabinet minister in the Harper Government.

Students can benefit from a lesson that provides a simple overview of the process through which politicians can become leader of their particular party. Students will review the candidates via their websites and choose the most likely winner. They will also explain why Gary Mason describes winning this particular race as accepting “a poisoned chalice.”

It’s important that you provide students with an electronic version of the article by Laura Stone so that students can access direct links to the leadership candidates. If this is not possible, you can use this list:

Ask students if they are aware of a leadership race in the Conservative Party. Ensure they know that Stephen Harper resigned after losing the last election and that the current  leader, Rona Ambrose, is temporary. Ask if they know the names of any of the candidates.

Provide students with both articles and organize them into groups of four or five to a group. Task them as follows:

Your job is to review the candidates in the Conservative leadership race and to choose the one that you think should win. Click on each of the candidates’ links and spend no more than three minutes reviewing what you see there. Take a poll of your group each time, asking, “On a scale of one to 10, how would you rank this candidate?” Average the answers and move on to the next candidate.

When you’ve finished, see which candidate scored the highest and which scored the lowest. Try to gain consensus in your group about why they chose who they chose.

Finally, read the article by Gary Mason and discuss these questions: Why is the leadership of the Conservative Party like a “poisoned chalice?” Why are candidates required to raise certain amount of money in order to run for the leadership?

Be prepared to present a summary of your group’s work to class.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Students present and discuss their work in a general session.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students can list and describe some of the candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party and they can explain, in general, the way leaders are chosen for this party.

Confirming Activity:

  • Students report on candidates as they appear in the media, and report as well on the convention that chooses the winner when that takes place.