Students analyze the responsibilities of Alberta's provincial and local governments by writing a persuasive paragraph arguing in favour of or against changing the existing division of provincial and local government responsibilities.
Present a scenario
Tell the students to imagine that the Alberta government has decided to review the division of responsibilities between the provincial and municipal governments in the province. The goal is to determine if the current division still works despite the change over the past 100 years from a rural, agricultural society to an urban society. The provincial government has decided to invite written submissions from Albertans to gather their views on the issues. You are invited to contribute by writing a persuasive paragraph arguing in favour of or against changing the responsibilities assigned to each level of government.
Identify responsibilities of government
Remind students that under the Canadian constitution municipalities are the responsibility of provincial governments and that means that the Alberta government can decide what powers to hand over to the towns and cities of the province. Review with students the nature of the division of responsibilities, noting that some areas are currently the responsibility of the provincial government while others have been delegated to local municipalities.
Form groups of three or four students and provide them with a set of index cards with one government responsibility written on each card. Ask groups to sort the cards into municipal or provincial responsibilities. Encourage them to discuss their rationale for sorting the cards.
Areas of Government Responsibility
- local roads
- major highways
- garbage collection
- support for recent immigrants
- zoning laws (to decide what can be built where)
- environmental laws
- health care
- shelters for the homeless
- liquor laws
- driving laws
- child care.
Ask students to walk around the room to see how other groups have sorted the responsibilities. Encourage students to discuss with each other why they made the choices they did.
Determine if current division of powers provides effective democracy
Provide students with a short reading from an authorized student resource, a reference source or a reliable website that outlines the responsibilities of the municipal and provincial governments (see References). A useful publication is the Citizen's Guide to the Alberta Legislature (see References).
Ask students to compare their sorting of responsibilities against the actual division of responsibilities. Point out that the division of responsibilities was determined in 1867, when Canada was made up of four provinces and was a dominantly rural country. The division of responsibilities was applied to Alberta when it became a province in 1905.
Invite students to discuss the degree to which the current division of responsibilities helps to make Alberta an effective democracy. Students should consider these criteria:
- ensures justice for all Albertans
- ensures that all Albertans are treated fairly
- protects the fundamental freedoms of all Albertans
- provides the most effective representation for all Albertans
- helps to provide the highest possible quality of life for all Albertans.
Prepare to write a persuasive paragraph
Provide students with a graphic organizer, such as Supporting Conclusions (Support Material), to help them consolidate their positions on the division of responsibilities and to prepare them to write their persuasive paragraphs.
Invite students to share their completed charts with their peers for feedback. Remind students to offer helpful suggestions, to focus on nontrivial areas and to be respectful.
Write a persuasive paragraph
Review the qualities of an effective paragraph. Remind students to begin with a strong topic sentence that clearly sets out the issue and the writer's point of view. The paragraph should offer convincing arguments that are supported by accurate and reliable evidence. The conclusion should summarize how the evidence supports the position taken in the topic sentence. Invite students to consider appropriate audiences and ways to use information technologies communicate their recommendations for how responsibilities should be shared between the provincial and local governments.