Which issues are most important in the upcoming election and why? How can I learn about the election candidates? Which candidate(s) most align with my views?
Elections present an opportunity for citizens to discuss and debate issues of importance and have a voice about the future direction of their community.
In this lesson, students will survey friends and family, and exchange ideas with their peers about which issues are most pressing in their community. After reviewing the concept of political significance, students will establish criteria to evaluate their list of community issues. Students will become acquainted with the municipal election process and their council composition before researching the candidates. In groups, students will collect information about or from their selected candidate. Students will consolidate their learning by reflecting on which issues are most important to them and which candidate(s) most align with their views.
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
- Develop an understanding of the municipal election process (Citizen Framework – Structures);
- Use the political inquiry process and work in a collaborative manner to research the municipal election candidates running;
- Compare and contrast how different candidates will respond to the same political issue (Concepts of Thinking – Political Perspective);
- Develop a sense of their civic self-image by exploring their own political views (Citizen Framework – Identity).
- I can explain the municipal election process in my community;
- I can collaborate with my peers to research and present candidate information and their position on select issues;
- I can compare and contrast how different candidates will respond to the same political issue;
- I can evaluate which issues matter most to me and which candidate(s) align with my political views.
CHV2O – A1, A2, B1, C2, A1.1, A1.2, A1.3, A1.5, A1.7, B1.1, B1.4, C2.3
Within a few days of the lesson, ask students to survey at least five family or friends in the community about which issues they personally want to see addressed by the new municipal council. This data could be collected through the handout (Activity 5.1) or by creating an online survey using an application (i.e., Kahoot).
1. Share the following with students.
In any given place – a neighbourhood, municipality, province or country – anywhere that groups of people live together and where the laws of the land affect everyone in a similar way, there will be differences in opinions about how government and society should work, which issues are most important and how best to take action. Giving citizens an opportunity to have a voice in the debate is fundamental to democracy.
2. In small groups, discuss the most pressing issues in your municipality. Use data from the readiness activity, general conversation about the election and/or news articles.
3. As a class, review the concept of political significance and co-create criteria to evaluate the list of community issues.
Teacher note: Recall the definition of political significance when developing the criteria. It is a political thinking concept that looks at the importance of particular policies, civic actions, issues, events, or developments, based on their impact on the lives of citizens, or their influence on government decision-making.
Ask students to respond to the following questions for each issue – Definitely not/Probably not/Probably/Definitely
- Is the impact long lasting?
- Is the impact extreme – positively or negatively?
- Are many people affected?
- Does it directly affect you, your family and friends?
- Are many people for and/or against it?
- Are the differences between supporters and opponents substantial?
4. Return to small groups and have students rank the issues from the earlier discussion using the criteria established.
5. Follow up with a class discussion to review the small group rankings and come to a consensus on the top three issues facing the community.
1. Review the municipal election process in Ontario using the following guiding questions and accompanying slide deck. Add information about the election races in your municipality.
- When is election day?
- How does First-Past-the-Post work?
- How does it compare with ranked ballots?
- How many positions will be elected in our municipal elections?
Teacher note: Currently, all but one municipality in Ontario uses the First-Past-the-Post system. The City of London is the first municipality to adopt a ranked voting system, following legislation passed by the provincial government. Other municipalities are discussing this option for future elections.
2. Find out which candidates are running for election for each applicable race. Show students where they can find this information by visiting your municipality’s website.
• Who is running for head of council member? (Mayor or reeve)
• Which candidates are running for council? Are council members elected at-large or by ward?
• If applicable, which ward does your school reside in?
3. Divide the class into pairs or small groups to research the candidates running for election. As a class, develop a checklist for creating a profile and formulate questions based on the top election issues established in the Minds On activity. Have students choose how the information will be presented (e.g., poster board, slide deck, video, “fakebook” account, fake Instagram or Twitter feed).
Sample research profile:
- Name and photo
- Personal information (e.g., education, career, accomplishments)
- Priorities (What issues are most important to the candidate?)
- Issues (What is their position or response to the questions concerning the top issues?)
Teacher note: Encourage students to use primary and secondary resources, including news articles and commentary, candidate websites and social media pages, or even contact the candidates directly.
4. Have each group present their candidate profile and research to the rest of the class. Alternatively, you can post the group work around the classroom walls or create stations, and use a Carousel format where students move in small groups from station to station.
Have a brief closing discussion about the candidates running for election, or ask students to write a reflection on one or more of the following questions.
- Which municipal issue is most important to you personally and why? Has your view changed over the course of the election? Why or why not?
- Which candidate(s) align with your views? Which candidate(s) do you think will best address the issues what matter most to you? Explain your reasoning.
- Which candidate(s) will you support and why?
- What do you think has shaped your political views the most? Why is it important to respect others viewpoints even if they different from your own?
An all-candidates debate is an opportunity for the candidates to share their priorities, criticize their opponents’ ideas and perform in front of voters. Use Guide 5.3 for suggestions on how to coordinate your own all‑candidates debate or watch a video of a debate organized in the community. Which candidate had the best responses and why? Which candidate presented themselves as an effective leader or elected representative?
Teacher note: Alternatively, you could invite each candidate in for a class visit, or conduct a phone or videophone call interview.
- Slide Deck 5: Municipalities [PPT]
- Activity 5.1: Which Issues Matter Most In This Election? [PDF] [Word]
- Activity 5.2: Graphic Organizer – Getting To Know The Candidates [PDF] [Word]
- Guide 5.3: Planning An All-Candidates Meeting [PDF]