Eric Andrew-Gee and colleagues review one of the longest political election campaigns in history to suggest turning points and key issues that resulted in the surprise Liberal majority outcome.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events, history

Key Questions to Explore:

  • Why did the Canadian electorate give the Liberals a majority mandate?

New Terminology:

Acrimonious, repudiation, infrastructure, Islamaphobia, stewardship

Materials Needed:

Globe article

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

After the longest Canadian federal election campaign in decades voters handed Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party one of the largest majorities in recent decades. The campaign was dominated by successive controversial issues and stories, from the trial of Conservative Senator Duffy to the Syrian refugee crisis to the resignation of a key Liberal campaigner and fundraiser. All three major parties held the lead in public opinion polls at various stages of the campaign and the tight three-way race led to widespread speculation about a possible minority government and how it would manage to govern. Yet the Liberals confounded almost all pundits by dominating the vote.

Students will work in groups to discuss the possible key issues and turning points during the campaign and draw their own conclusions that explain the outcome. They will then draw up a checklist of predictions about the future by the other parties to see if they materialize, as well as drawing up a checklist of Liberal promises to see if they are honoured or broken over time.

NOTE: For a backgrounder lesson on the election, see the social studies section of the September issue of the Classroom Edition for a lesson based on this article: “Sixty per cent of Canadians’ votes up for grabs, poll suggests.”

Action (lesson plan and task):

Engage students in a short discussion about the election to see how informed they are about the outcomes and to see how they feel about them generally.

Next, ask students to read the article silently, and while they read they are to circle or highlight any passages or comments that they think might represent possible key issues that may have affected the final vote. For example, “The vote put an end to a long, acrimonious campaign that saw charges of Conservative Islamophobia” might suggest that Conservatives lost some votes by presenting the impression that they were anti-Islam.

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


  • Choose a leader for your group who will take notes and record the checklists you will develop.
  • Ask members of your group to report which point they highlighted first. Discuss this with the group to see if you can reach consensus—not that all would agree, but that most would agree with that point. In the process, ensure that you can explain why you think the point was worth noting.
  • Continue to the end of the article and make up a list of what your group believes are the main reasons for the outcome of the vote and some reasons for listing them.
  • Next, from information in the article and including your own knowledge of the campaign’s warnings, make up a list of the threats—for example, the Conservatives warned that the Liberals would force communities to put up with legalized brothels and that a Liberal government would let in 100,000 Syrian refugees without screening them.
  • From your knowledge of the campaign, make up a list of Liberal promises to see, over time, if these are honoured.
  • Poll the group to see how they feel about the article itself: Was it fair, biased, reasonable? They should point to specifics to back up their views.
  • Be prepared to present a brief oral report to class.

Consolidation of Learning:

Take whatever time you have left to let groups present their findings via oral reports. A volunteer can note points of agreement among the groups to come up with your class’s best explanations (based on information in the article) for the Liberal victory. Ask students for their lists of warnings and promises and post those that are common to all groups’ responses in the classroom. Over time, have students note when the warnings either came true or failed to materialize, and when promises were honoured or ignored.


Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students are able to provide an informed opinion as to the issues that shaped the election’s outcomes.

Confirming Activity:

  • Students report on news items that relate to warnings and promises from their master list.