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Introduction to Canadian Government

Course Code: POLI 1102
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Political Science
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: Fall, Winter, Summer
course overview

This course explores the structure and functions of the main institutions of Canadian government. Students will examine Canada’s constitutional history and modern constitutional challenges, Canadian federalism, the prime minister, the Cabinet, the Parliament, the bureaucracy, and the judiciary. The course provides the basis for understanding Canada’s parliamentary system and more advanced study of Canadian governments. Students are encouraged to enroll in both POLI 1102 (Introduction to Canadian Government) and POLI 2202 (Introduction to Canadian Politics) to enhance their university transfer if majoring in political science.

Course Content

1. The Canadian Constitution

This section covers the origins and evolution of the Canadian constitution, the formal executive, the monarchy and Governor General, the structure of the judiciary, federal and provincial legislative authority, the 1982 patriation of Canada’s constitution and key post-1982 events such as the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, the 1995 Quebec succession referendum, and the Clarity Act.

2. Federalism

This section examines and evaluates concepts of Canadian federalism. The major challenges to federalism will be examined in terms of dualism (French/English), Quebec nationalism, and the regional dynamics that influence the legislative authority of both federal and provincial governments.

3. The Prime Minister, Ministry, and Cabinet

The role and powers of the political executive are examined, with particular emphasis on the prime minister. Cabinet formulation and structure as well as the roles of Cabinet ministers are discussed. Policy formulation at the executive level is examined, with reference to major coordinating agencies such the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office.

4. Legislative Politics

The structure and roles of the Canadian parliament are examined, with particular reference to the governing and opposition parties, parliamentary processes, the committee system, and the roles of elected members of Parliament.

5. The Civil Service

The basic structure and role of the civil service is explored, with particular emphasis placed on the role the civil service plays in terms of the development and implementation of public policy.

Methods of Instruction

Instructor presentation of the course will involve the use of formal lectures, structured group work, in-class discussion, and student presentations or formal debates. Additional readings may be assigned for each course unit and placed on library reserve or via selected websites. Audio-visual and interactive materials may be used.

Means of Assessment

The course evaluation will be based on course objectives and in accordance with the policies of Douglas College and the Department of Political Science. A minimum of 40% of the student’s course grade will be assigned to examinations, a minimum of 30% will be assigned to the various components of a formal research essay, and a maximum of 30% will be based upon components such as quizzes, short essays, participation, and class presentations. Specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor in course outlines.

One example of an evaluation system:

Mid-term exam                    25%

Participation                        10%

Presentation                        10%

Research essay                    30%

Final exam                          25%

                               Total: 100%

Learning Outcomes

Upon conclusion of the course, successful students will be able to:

  1. Distinguish between pluralist, public choice, class, state-centred, and globalization approaches to the study of Canadian government;
  2. Describe major institutions in the Canadian political system, for example, the constitution, the political executive, Parliament, the courts, and the civil service;
  3. Explain the functions of the main institutions of Canada’s political system such as passing, implementing, executing, and adjudicating legislation;
  4. Apply understanding of course objectives and content in a formal research essay;
  5. Pursue study in more advanced work in Canadian government and politics courses.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.