Allan Maki reports on and analyses the surprise NDP win in the recent Alberta provincial election, ending 44 years of Conservative governments.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, history, current events

Key Questions to Explore:

  • Why was the election of the NDP in Alberta’s recent provincial election such a surprise to most observers?

New Terminology:

Wildrose, Rachel Notley, garnered, mandate, vote-splitting

Materials Needed:

Globe article, the Internet

Time required:

15 minutes and a homework assignment

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The election of an NDP majority government in Alberta was by far the biggest domestic political news story so far this year. Provincial NDP government are not new, however. Other provinces have had NDP governments in the past, among them British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Yukon. Saskatchewan has been governed by the NDP (and the earlier version, the CCF) for about 40 of the last 71 years. In the 1980s, the NDP formed the official opposition in Alberta for a few years, so the massive coverage of the recent election and its outcome invites the question: What is it about the perception of the NDP and/or of Alberta voters that generates so much interest in this particular election?

In this homework lesson, students will conduct basic research to inform a short report that addresses the questions: What are some common perceptions/misperceptions about historical provincial NDP governments in Canada? Why was the election of the NDP in Alberta’s recent provincial election such a surprise to so many observers?

Action (lesson plan and task):

Take fifteen minutes to bring your class up to speed on the story of the Alberta election. Use these questions to focus the discussion:

  • Who won the latest Alberta election?
  • Which party and leader was defeated?
  • Was this outcome expected or was it a surprise?
  • What do you typically hear about the NDP’s policies, track record in provincial governments and so on?
  • Who was premier-elect Rachel Notley’s father and what became of him? (He was leader of the Alberta NDP for thirteen years before he was killed in a plane crash in 1984)
  • How would you contrast general public perception of the NDP with the Conservatives or Progressive Conservatives?

Provide students with a copy of the article and with your preferred websites through which to research the questions, below, or you can allow them to find their own—as you choose. Assign the following for homework:

You are to write a one-page report that addresses the following questions:

  • What are common perceptions/misperceptions about the history and track record of provincial NDP governments in Canada? Why was the election of the NDP in Alberta’s recent provincial election such a surprise to most observers?
  • Using the Internet, conduct some research on the history of NDP provincial governments in Canada. Searches along these lines may help to narrow your focus: history of provincial NDP governments in Canada; provincial deficits by political party, 1944—present; growth of provincial governments by political parties over time; economic growth of provinces by political party over time.
  • Ensure that you include the URLs of the websites you’ve used, listing them at the end of your report.
  • Read the article on the Alberta election.

Include responses to the following questions in your report:

  • Compared to other political parties that have governed provinces over the past 65 years, has the NDP delivered more, fewer, or the same number of budget deficits and surpluses?
  • What is the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) record of the NDP versus other governments?
  • Which province has had the most NDP governments in Canada? What is significant about the history of the NDP in that province?
  • As reported in the article by Allan Maki, prior to the Alberta election an Alberta businessman named Paul Douglas urged people to vote for the Progressive Conservatives, with this caution about the NDP: “[The NDP] policies…discourage investment, reduce the activity of business, slow down the economy, reduce jobs and profits and ultimately reduce the amount of money they were looking for in the first place to increase the size of government and provide enhanced government services.” Does your research support these claims? Explain.
  • Based on your research, do you think the facts about NDP governments are consistent with its description by some opposition parties as a “socialist, big-government, tax-and-spend party”? Explain your answer using evidence from your research.
  • Finally, why do you think the NDP win in Alberta was such big news and a surprise to so many people?

After students have submitted their reports, consider engaging them in a second class discussion to see how their research affected their opinions overall.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Group discussions following the homework assignment
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Submission of acceptable student homework reports.

Confirming Activity:

  • Students volunteer reports as fresh news stories appear related to the NDP and/or new elections.