As campaigning for the October 19th election continues, Campbell Clark reports on the large number of undecided voters being courted by the NDP, Liberals and the ruling Conservatives, in what appears to be a three-way race. In an associated article of August 2, Canada’s electoral geography: Where parties are likely to gain seats, John Ibbitson describes the way regional voting can affect the ultimate outcome of the election.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events, history

Key Questions to Explore:

  • Who are the leaders of the five main parties vying for votes in the coming election? How do their parties and platforms differ from each other?

New Terminology:

Incumbent, red Tories, synchronicity, electoral, cross-pollination, volatile

Materials Needed:

Globe article, the Internet


Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The longest Canadian federal election campaign in decades concludes on October 19th, 2015,  and to be able to engage with it, students, especially those of voting age, need to know who is leading each party and the differences among the parties and their respective platforms. This lesson is designed to ensure students have at least a minimal understanding about who is running for each party, and what each party stands for in broad general terms.

Students will work in groups in two short stages. First, they will see what they already know about the election and next they will enhance what they know by using the articles and the Internet.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Engage students in a short discussion to help determine how informed they currently are about the coming election. Ask (answers in parentheses):

  • When is the next federal election? (October 19, 2015)
  • What are the three leading federal parties vying for office? (Conservatives, NDP, Liberals)
  • Each of these parties has a different official position on the subject of marijuana. One plans to legalize it and regulate its use; another plans to decriminalize it, so that using it will not result in a criminal record; and another plans to toughen the laws that already exist. Which party aligns with which position? (Liberal, NDP and Conservative, in that order, but consider leaving this question open, without validating correct answers or correcting wrong answers. Students will discover this in their research.)

Organize the class into groups and provide all groups with the two Globe articles and the same set of tasks, as follows:


Choose a leader for your group. The leader’s task is, first, to find out how much members of your group already know about the coming election without checking for facts online. Poll students on the following questions and record their answers.

  • Who is the current prime minister?
  • Who are the leaders of the three main federal political parties?
  • Name two other parties that are in the race.
  • Who are the leaders of these two parties?
  • Name one promise or change that each of the leaders has announced they would bring about if they are elected, party by party.

Next, have your group members go online to the following official party websites to check their facts:

Ask the same questions again and record the changes to the answers in your notes, putting any changes in parentheses.

Next, have group members quickly search the websites to find one or two promises or “platform” issues each party is presenting as part of its campaign. Note these as they are discovered.

Next, refer to the article by John Ibbitson. Ask a volunteer to read aloud the opening paragraph and then follow that by reading about the region of Canada where you live. For example, if you live in Halifax, read the section entitled, “Atlantic Canada.”

Discuss this with your group, noting where members of the group agree or disagree with what is said about your region. For example, do you think the article accurately describes the political climate in your region? Give reasons for your answers.

Finally, ask a volunteer to read aloud the article by Campbell Clark. As the person reads, note when they read the following words or passages and stop them. Ask the group to explain the words or phrases—what do they mean? Then carry on with the rest of the article.

  • “Still up for grabs”
  • “volatile electorate”
  • “’an almost unshakeable base’”
  • “crossover potential”
  • “incumbent”

Finally, poll the group to see how each member would vote if they were able to vote in the coming election.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • In the final 15 minutes of class time, have groups report on their findings; compare and contrast what they knew before they did the research and how much they learned by doing the research.



Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students know which parties are vying for office, the names of their leaders and at least one campaign promise from each

Confirming Activity:

  • Consider presenting a short quiz on the election in your next class.