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Lesson Plan:

For Teachers - The NDP: Third Force in Canadian Politics

Type: Assignment
Subjects: History, Political Science
Grades: Grades 11-12
Duration: 1 to 2 lessons
Purpose: To explore the role that the federal NDP has played in Canadian politics, focusing on the period of Ed Broadbent’s leadership, 1975 to 1989
Summary: Students prepare a balance sheet of the strengths and weaknesses of the federal NDP during Ed Broadbent’s leadership and assess their impact on the party.

Before Exploring

Write "NDP" on the board and ask students to brainstorm what they know about this political party. Information might include prominent figures, ideas and/or policies, and where they would place the party on the political spectrum. Ask: How successful a political force has the NDP in Canada been over time? Why do you think the party has not yet won a federal election? Record student responses on the board.

Outline the Opportunity

Direct students to the following clips from the topic Ed Broadbent: A Voice from the Left on the CBC Digital Archives website: 'Race for the leadership,' 'On the campaign trail,' 'Constitutional discord,' '(Not) a leadership challenge,' 'Broadbent on Bach and Billie,' 'NDP tops the polls' and 'The quest for Quebec.'. Have students prepare a balance sheet of the main strengths and weaknesses of the federal New Democratic Party during the period of Ed Broadbent's leadership from 1975 to 1989. Students should identify the high and low points in the NDP's political fortunes during this period and why it was unable to make a major electoral breakthrough. They should also consider the role of the NDP during important national debates over issues such as the patriation of the Constitution and free trade.

Revisit and Reflect

Using their completed balance sheets, students evaluate the impact of the NDP on Canadian politics during the period of Ed Broadbent's leadership. Ask: How effective was he in leading the party at that time? Why do you think the party was not able to achieve its objective of winning a federal election or forming the official opposition? What, if anything, do you think the NDP and Ed Broadbent could have done differently in order to ensure greater political success for the party?


Students can write a report on the fortunes of the New Democratic Party today, assessing the quality of its leadership, the effectiveness of its policies, and the likelihood of its gaining more support in future elections in Canada.

Assessment Tip: In students' written reports, look for accurate and thoughtful analysis of the party's leadership, effectiveness, and future prospects.