Three reporters describe the October 7th federal leaders’ debate, featuring a few memorable quips, ad-hominem attacks and plenty of talking over one another, but with no clear runaway winner.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events

Key Question(s) to Explore:

  • What is a minority government, and how have they worked in Canada to date?

New Terminology:

Ad-hominem, jousted, LGBTQ

Materials Needed:

Globe article, Internet Suggested:;

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

In Canada, elections involving political parties can result in either a majority or a minority government. With the frontrunners in the current Canadian federal election in a statistical dead heat in the polls, there is now a good chance that Canada will have a minority government. The most recent minority government was that of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, who earned five years of minority rule, from 2006-2011, before winning a four-year majority.

Students can benefit from a light lesson on minority governments in which they use the suggested links and the attached article to write a short essay on their features and merits. NOTE: The lesson will remain useful, if less timely, should the election produce a majority government.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Introduce the lesson with a short general discussion about the election to come (or that has just taken place). Ask who had seen the debate on October 7th. Note that the article, attached, provides a summary of the debate.

Raise the issue of governing in a minority arrangement. Can students name any other minority governments, provincial or federal? (Many federal, including the federal Conservatives from ’06-’11) How does the party stay in power if it doesn’t have a majority? (It must forge alliances, short-term or long-term, with another party or parties).

Provide students with the article, attached, the links to The Canadian Encyclopedia and to the Policy Options sites, above—or your own preferred links—and this assignment:

Compose a one-page (or longer, teacher’s option) essay in which you argue in favour of one of these topics:

  1. Minority governments are a more favourable outcome of federal elections than majority governments;
  2. Majority governments are a more favourable outcome of federal elections than minority governments.

Your work should include:

  • A short explanation of how minority governments are formed following an election;
  • A list of some recent minority federal governments;
  • An explanation of the term “confidence of the House,” and the implications of a vote of non-confidence;
  • Some pluses or minuses of both forms of government, relative to:
    • The speed at which legislation can be passed;
    • Representation of voters, the electorate;
    • The volume of legislation that can be passed;
    • The degree of scrutiny and discussion of proposed legislation;
    • The involvement of opposition parties in governing;
    • The inclusion of different political ideals and views;
    • The degree of power that attaches to the prime minister;
    • The stability of the government, and repercussions on governing and industry.
  • Scan the article provided. Wait ten minutes, then note two things you remember about what you read.

Finally, what is your opinion of minority governments? Explain, briefly.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Students discuss their essays in a subsequent class.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students can explain, in simple terms, how minority governments are formed and how their governments have compared, over time, with majority governments.

Confirming Activity:

  • Ask students to report on the formation of a minority government after the election, if that is the outcome.