Watching the Elections 101 video presentation is a great way to learn about elections in the city of Toronto.

As you move through the classroom and at home learning you will discover other materials that will assist you in teaching or learning more about municipal elections and your local government. Browse through our guides, activities, videos and more!

Learn and share the basics about elections in the city of Toronto:

  • Levels of government
  • City Council
  • Who can vote
  • How to vote
  • Running as a candidate

Elections 101 Presentation 

Elections 101 Video

Watch election-related videos to help you learn more about elections including, how to vote, accessible voting equipment and more.

You can vote in Toronto’s municipal election if you are:

  • a Canadian citizen; and
  • at least 18 years old; and
  • a resident in the city of Toronto; or
  • a non-resident of Toronto, but you or your spouse own or rent property in the city; and
  • not prohibited from voting under any law.

You may only vote once in the City of Toronto municipal election regardless of how many properties you own or rent within the City. You must vote in the ward where you live.

Find out how to vote in a City of Toronto municipal election, and learn about voter qualifications, what to expect in the voting place, how to mark you ballot and declarations that you may need to use in order to receive your ballot.

The City of Toronto is your local government, also known as the municipal level of government. In Canada, we also have a federal government and provincial government. Each of these levels has different responsibilities but they often work together. The City of Toronto provides services that have a direct impact on our daily lives.

Elections in Canada

Federal elections in Canada are different then municipal elections. There are no party affiliation with municipal elections; however, Canada is a representative democracy. A federal election in Canada consists of 338 ridings or districts, each of those ridings or districts could have up to 250 polling stations. To better understand what you vote for during a federal election, it is important to know what the federal Government of Canada is responsible for:

  • national defence and Canadian Armed Forces
  • postal service
  • banking
  • employment
  • citizenship and immigration
  • census
  • foreign affairs and international trade
  • agriculture and more.

The eligibility age for voting is 18, and like municipal elections there are a few steps that must be taken before voting. Learn more about the federal election process in Canada by visiting the Elections Canada website.

Learn more about the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government.

Helpful Resources:

Grade 5 Teacher Guide

This resource has been developed for Grade 5 teachers who are interested in teaching government, democracy and citizenship in an engaging and fun way. Through the lessons and activities in this guide, students’ will develop an understanding of the function, role and importance of government.

Grade 10 Teacher Guide

The goal of this resource is to give grade 10 teachers what they need to encourage youth to better understand municipal government, and become involved and engaged with the election process. There are many resources and lessons throughout this guide which can be immediately used in the classroom.

There are three lessons in this activity that focus on elements of municipal government including: the purpose of municipal government, understanding the ward you live in and getting to know your councillor.

Lesson: Municipal Government

Level

Secondary

Time Needed

60 mins

Overview

Municipal government has the greatest influence on everyone’s day-to-day life. It is also the most accessible with the best opportunities for citizens to directly engage with the way they are governed.

Purpose

The purpose of this lesson is to allow students to understand the purpose of municipal government and its effect on their lives.

Process (Activity)

Introduce the concept of municipal government and include a ward map of Toronto explaining that the area is governed by a Mayor and Councillors representing each city ward.

  • Have the students/kids identify the current Mayor
  • Identify the ward their school is in
  • Identify the current councillor

What are some areas that municipal government is responsible for?

  • Have everyone write out, in chronological order, their day, from the smallest things (brushing your teeth) to the larger events (attending school or a sport/recreation program).
  • Identify which parts of the day the municipal government is responsible for (for example, the City provides the water to brush their teeth)
  • Ask questions and generate discussion on the importance of these responsibilities.
  • Extend the lesson by brainstorming some issues students/kids feel are important. If they were Mayor, what would they change about the city? For example, would they allocate more budget dollars to recreation programs?

Lesson: Know Your Ward

Level

Secondary

Time Needed

60-120 mins (will need to be able to access a smart phone or device)

Overview

Councillors are elected on their name and what they bring to their ward, rather than affiliation to a political party. Therefore, the nature of the community and its issues are vitally important during election time.

Purpose

This lesson will help your students/kids better understand their community in the context of the larger City of Toronto through photographs and statistics. This lesson assumes you use the community the school is located in. Or if you are doing this as a family, use the ward you live in.

Process (Activity)

Before starting the lesson, ensure that:

  • The students understand what a ward is, and that they often encompass more than one neighbourhood or community.
  • Go to toronto.ca/councillor and enter an address. Maps of the ward, the Councillor and ward profiles are also available here.

Have each student or person take pictures with their smart phone or device. For who do not have a device think of a possible alternative, for example partnering up with another person.
Students/kids are to take pictures of any of the following:

  • Places they go to.
  • Places of interest in their community.
  • Places they feel are important in their community.
  • Issues or problems in their community (for example, empty houses, development, crime areas, and more)

Once the pictures are collected, several things can be done with them as a class/family:

  • Place them geographically on a map either digitally or physically
  • Displayed as a slideshow presentation
  • Placed around the classroom, for example hung on the walls

As you view the photos with the students, talk about each one. Why was the photo taken? What does it tell us about the community? Is there an issue? What is it and why?


Lesson: Know Your Councillor

Level

Secondary

Time Needed

60 mins

Overview

Explain how a person becomes a candidate in a municipal election.

Purpose

The purpose of this lesson is to understand how to find your ward’s councillor, and how to find information about them. Explain how a person becomes an elected councillor during a municipal election.

Process (Activity)

Together, go to toronto.ca/councillors to find out who the councillors are in each city ward.
Starting with wards that are relevant to the students, the school’s and students’ ward(s).

Brainstorm as a class some things that they would like to know about their councillors. When doing this, consider some of the issues that the community faces as the class has previously discussed.
Individually or in small groups, research the councillors and collect at least one news article about the councillor. Try to figure out the councillor’s perspective on the important issues in the community.

Assign the assignment: Election news article (this assignment can be used in one of two ways an article about the ward, or an article profiling a councillor). Sample newspaper articles can be provided as examples.

Helpful hints:

  • Include an attention-getting headline.
  • Written in a style similar to media articles.
  • Be as unbiased as possible, but at the same time provide interesting information about the councillor, their personal life and political opinions. Allow the reader to get to know the councillor personally.
  • Explore the local issues in the ward, and the councillor’s view on them.
  • Include some visuals (for example picture of the councillor or ward).

In this activity the focus is on the different levels of government. The two lessons will help guide students to better understand what each level of government provides them, and understand municipal government’s daily impact.

Lesson: Who Does What?

Level

Elementary/Secondary

Time Needed

60 – 120 mins

Overview

Explain to your students that in a federal system, the federal government is responsible for making decisions that affect all of Canada, and the provincial governments (located in each province’s capital city) are responsible for making decisions that affect their specific provinces. Provincial governments grant power to municipalities or cities, to make decisions that affect local services, programs and issues (municipal government).

Purpose

To help give a clear understanding of the three levels of government in Canada.

Process (Activity)

Take a step back and ask the class: how many levels of government are there? There are three official levels of government – the federal government, the provincial government and the municipal government.

Label large maps of Canada, Ontario and Toronto with ‘federal’, ‘provincial’, and ‘municipal’ to help visualize how each level of government is responsible for the citizens and area within the map. Explain that:

  • the federal government – makes decisions that affect all Canadians equally and are national/ international issues.
  • the provincial government – makes decisions that only affect the citizens of their province and are provincial issues.
  • the municipal government – makes decisions that only affect the citizens of their specific city or town.

Ask students to answer the following questions based on the concept above:

Q: Which level of government is responsible for the military (national defense)?

A: Federal Government

Q: Which level of government is responsible for making decisions on local transportation (buses and subways)?

A: Municipal Government

Q: Which level of government is responsible for making decisions on highways and hospitals?

A: Provincial Government

Additional Activity to this Lesson: Group Flash Card Game

The goal of the game is for each group to divide their flash cards into the level of government that is responsible for the given public service.
If you want, you can introduce limitations or incentives onto the game to help engage students. For example, the group that divides their flashcards within a set period of time, with most correct answers wins a prize or classroom privilege.

Divide the class into groups of 3-5 students.

  • Give each group a stack of public service flash cards (see page page 34 of the Grade 5 Teacher Guide). Listed on each card is a government service (hospitals, schools, military, money, postal service, public transportation, trash collection, libraries, etc.)
  • Give students instructions – Divide each of your flash cards into stacks based on the level of government that is responsible for the given public service.
  • To ensure understanding, model the activity at the front of the class using oversized flashcards, assigning them to each level of government by taping them to large maps of Canada, Ontario and Toronto labelled federal, provincial and municipal.
  • Encourage students to discuss their reasoning with one another and to make final decisions as a group.
  • Begin the game and observe group progress. Guide the group’s progress by offering prompts, for example, ‘most answers are correct, but two cards are placed with the wrong level of government’.
  • The game ends when a group has correctly matched every one of their public service flash cards to the correct level of government.
  • Review the results as a class by taping the flash cards to the large maps of Canada, Ontario and Toronto at the front of class.

Discussion

Ask your students which services they found the most difficult to sort into a level of government.

Ask the class what level of government provides the public services they use most in their daily lives.

  • As part of this discussion, make the point that each level of government provides important services, but that we use municipal services more than provincial services and provincial services more than federal services.

To help students understand the reason behind having three levels of government in Canada, use the analogy of your local classroom and explain how decisions are divided among the classroom (municipal), school (province) and school board (federal).

If decisions were made by the school board (federal government) that affected all schools and all classrooms equally, what problems would we face?


Lesson: Comic Strip

Level

Elementary/Secondary

Time Needed

60 – 120 mins

Overview

Comic Strip: “What If… A Day Without Municipal Public Services”

Clearly explain the following evaluation criteria to students, before beginning the activity:

  • The importance of community public services is made clear in the comic strip.
  • At least three public services are clearly identified within the comic strip story.
  • Information and ideas must be effectively expressed and organized in the comic strip.

Purpose

Students write and illustrate a comic strip story of their morning without municipal public services. Alternative options to illustrating could be, to act out their day at the front of the class; prepare a stop motion film; create a class video; or develop a PowerPoint or photo story presentation.

Process (Activity)

Encourage students to be creative in imagining a world where public services no longer exist by asking them: How would their family, community and daily life be affected by such a drastic change? What concerns might they have about their safety, health, or day to day life?

Have students storyboard their ideas on a piece of paper first. Review each student’s written concepts to ensure understanding before having them move forward with the illustration of their comic strip.

After the activity, have a follow up discussion on why government and government services are important. To continue the engagement of the class you could create a wall sized comic strip together, incorporating ideas and illustrations from each student. Hang the completed comic on the wall outside of the classroom to show other students and teachers at the school.

This activity focuses on teaching students how they can voice their opinions to councillors and City Council.

Lesson: Get Involved

Level

Secondary

Time Needed

120 mins

Overview

Council works best when it hears from the residents of Toronto. The major ways that people can get their voice heard are through letters, phone calls, emails and deputations. Deputations are presentations given by residents, to committees of Council when they are considering an issue.

Purpose

Why is this relevant to them? Municipal government touches their lives more than any other and they have the ability to make a difference. Knowing how to access government will give them a chance to change the things they care about.

Process (Activity)

Choose an issue as a class or a family, and write letters to your Councillor about the issue.

Council works best when it hears from the residents of Toronto. The major ways that people can get their voice heard are through letters, phone calls, emails and deputations. Deputations are presentations given by residents, to committees of Council when they are considering an issue.

Pick one of the issues below to either write a letter or make a deputation to the appropriate agency, board, commission or committee of council. The letter should be directed to your Councillor (make sure you know who this is) and the deputation should be addressed to the correct committee.

The letter should be no more than one page, and single spaced. The deputation should be no longer than five minutes, deputations are normally five minutes or less.

The Issues:

  • Your local library branch is closing
  • Council is considering 24hr subway
  • A local park is getting an off-leash area
  • Your neighbourhood does not have a local community centre
  • Cars on your street are driving way too fast
  • An 80 story condo is being proposed
  • A movie is being filmed in your area restricting road use for two weeks

Tips for Making a Great Deputation

  • Make your deputation as personal as possible. Explain how the proposed cuts or changes will affect you, your family and your community.
  • If you are a user of a service that is at risk, explain what benefits you have gained from that service, and how the community would suffer if the program were gone.
  • Deputations that use statistics to help make a point are good, but only use a few and be prepared to back up the statistic if asked by a Councillor.
  • Anticipate some questions you may be asked and prepare answers.
  • Tell them what you want them to do and when.

This activity focuses on helping students learn more about democracy.

Lesson: Understanding Democracy

Level

Elementary/Secondary

Time Needed

60 – 120 mins

Overview

Direct Democracy and Representative Democracy

Explain to students that the difference between different forms of government is who has the power to make decisions on issues that affect ‘the public’.
Autocratic decision-making is when the leader maintains total control of decision-making. In certain countries, only a few individuals or leaders have the power to make decisions and members of society are expected to accept the decisions that are made. In these countries, members of society do not have a say in the decisions that are made. This form of government is called autocracy.

In democracies, decisions are made by all of the people that live in the society. The word ‘democracy’ comes from the Greek words Demos (the people) and Kratia (power or rule). In countries that use democratic decision making, citizens have a say in issues that affect them. Citizens are expected to participate in making decisions, are free to have opposing views, and should learn about issues that affect them.

Drawing on the definition of democracy, explain how there are two kinds of democratic decision making – ‘direct democracy’ and ‘representative democracy’. These are different approaches to democracy.

A direct democracy is when all adult citizens participate in decision making directly, voting personally and individually on all public issues. A representative democracy is when citizens elect a political representative to represent them in government, act in their interest and make decisions on their behalf. In this form of democratic decision making, decisions are made for us through people that we have elected.

Purpose

To help give a clear understanding about democracy, and what it means for decision making.

Process (Activity)

Start the lesson, by asking students what they think the term ‘democracy’ means.

To assist with the discussion, ask the following questions:

  • How might a group of friends decide what game to play at recess?
  • What are different ways that decisions are made for large groups of people or countries?
  • Can you describe how a decision might be made in a democratic way? What makes the process democratic?
  • What makes Canada a democratic country? Or what makes a country undemocratic?

While students are talking, write their answers on the board, with democratic characteristics and principles on one side and undemocratic characteristics and principles on the other.

Focus the discussion on what makes a decision-making process democratic or undemocratic, as this will help frame your definition of democracy.

Additional Activity: Class Vote (Direct-Democracy)

Ask the class to take a quick vote on a number of small details related to the functioning of the school. Be sure the questions have ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Record each student’s individual votes at the front of the class. Use the questions below, or develop some of your own.

  • Should we allow hats in the classroom?
  • Should we allow gum in the classroom?
  • Should we should math class twice a day?
  • Should X be the only person allowed to write on the board?
  • Should we go to the library today?
  • Should X be allowed to ask a question in class?
  • Should we buy more pencils for the classroom?
  • Should we have a homework assignment tonight?
  • Should we have class outside today?

Ask the students to imagine if they had to vote on every minor decision regarding how the class was run. Would it become tiresome? Would the constant voting interfere with class work? Would the teacher ever be able to teach and would the students ever be able to learn?

Additional Discussion (Secondary Level)

Use the above activity to discuss why we elect political representatives to make decisions on our behalf and how difficult it would be if everyone was consulted on every decision. When would we have time to work? Would everyone know enough about the issues to make educated decisions?

This quiz will help wrap up all the activities for the students and test their knowledge.

Lesson: Review Quiz

Level

Elementary/Secondary

Time Needed

30 mins

Overview

This review quiz should be taken if you have completed the follow lessons:

  • Lesson: Municipal Government
  • Lesson: Know Your Ward
  • Lesson: Know Your Councillor
  • Lesson: Comic Strip
  • Lesson: Who Does What?
  • Lesson: Get Involved
  • Lesson: Understanding Democracy

Purpose

The purpose of this quiz is to test your knowledge about what you have learned by completing and participating in the Elections Education Lessons.

Process

Complete the following quiz and then discuss the answers. Answer key follows the questions.

Quiz

1. Three public services that I use every day are:

2. Why does the municipal government offer a variety of transportation services? Why don’t we make everyone drive, or walk, or take the bus?

3. The three levels of government in Canada are:

4. The ________________ government is responsible for currency, the postal service and the military.

5. The municipal government is responsible for: ________________

6. Highways and education are the responsibility of which government?

7. We have three levels of government in Canada because:

8. Democracy is: ________________

9. We elect political representatives to make decisions on behalf of the public because:

10. Match the definition:

A. Describes Direct Democracy =
B. Describes Representative Democracy =
C. Describes Autocracy =

Definitions:

1.    When citizens elect a political figure to represent them in government, act in their interest and make decisions on their behalf.
2.    Only government leaders have the power to make decisions and members of society are expected to accept these decisions.
3.    When all adult citizens participate in decision making by personally voting on all public issues.

Answer Key

  1. Potential answers: public transit, public libraries, water and sewage, garbage and waste collection services, public parks and recreation, electricity, roads, bike lanes, sidewalks, community centres, public pools, skating rinks, etc.
  2. The government provides different transportation services because it is responsible for enabling residents to get around the city. All residents have the equal right to access all areas of the city. The city is responsible for providing public transportation that is accessible by everyone.
  3. The municipal, provincial and federal governments.
  4. The federal government.
  5. Potential answers: public transit, libraries, bike lanes and networks, water and sewage, garbage and waste collection services, public parks and recreation, electricity, roads, public zoo, police services, child care (day care centres), ambulance and 911 services, firefighting services, etc.
  6. The provincial government.
  7. We have three levels of government in Canada so that different areas can identify and respond to the priorities and needs of their specific town, city or province.
  8. A democracy is a form of government where there is rule by the people and elections are held wherein the public elects their leaders to make decisions on their behalf.
  9. It would not be possible for the public to vote on every single issue. The cost and time involved in having the public vote on every issue is far too much for the government to be able to respond to the needs of the public. It would not be possible for every citizen to make educated decisions on every issue brought forth.
  10. Answers below:
  • describes Direct Democracy = 3. When all adult citizens participate in decision making by personally voting on public issues.
  • describes Representative Democracy = 1. When citizens elect a political figure to represent them in government, act in their interest, and make decisions on their behalf.
  • describes Autocracy = 2. Only government leaders have the power to make decisions and members of society are expected to accept these decisions.

Student Connect is a program that enables high school students to participate in the municipal election process by working at a voting place.

Discover the architectural features, public art and highlights of City Hall through this virtual tour, web exhibits with historical images, and finally test your knowledge by taking a short quiz.

Access curriculum-based programs for elementary and high school students, programs for ESL students and guided tours for all other groups.

An alphabetical list of election-related terms and definitions.

Demographic Information about the City of Toronto

This presentation includes how to find ward and neighbourhood profiles, interactive tool Wellbeing Toronto, census backgrounders, youth services and other research, and map portals.

Introduction to Toronto’s Government

Information about how the City operates, the City’s Legislative Structure and other information to help residents understand, access and participate in the daily life of the City of Toronto.

Learn more about Toronto’s Government, and download the information guide, Introduction to Toronto’s Government

 

My Local Government it's for me.

The City of Toronto provides services that have a direct impact on your daily life.

If you would like to become more involved with your local government in non-election years you can start with My Local Government – It’s For Me to help you become informed, have your say, and serve your city .