Fall 2023 - POL 221 D100

Introduction to Canadian Government (3)

Class Number: 3923

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Mon, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

    Oct 10, 2023: Tue, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 14, 2023
    Thu, 9:29–9:29 a.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    POL 100 or 151 or permission of department.



An introduction to the institutional order and political structure of the Canadian state. The course will include topics such as the constitution, parliament, cabinet, judiciary, public service and federal-provincial relations.


Course Description:

During the COVID pandemic, why did some areas of Canada have lockdowns and school closures and others did not? Why do governments find it so difficult to address issues like climate change, drug overdoses, the housing crisis and reconciliation? Understanding Canada’s political system gives you insight into how we deal with today’s major challenges. Who gains power through our political institutions, and whose voices are represented? What are the constraints facing governments?

This course introduces you to how your government works and gives you the chance to explore current controversies in Canada. We will begin by examining Canada’s parliamentary system, contrasting it to the US presidential system. This part of the course will cover the major national institutions: Parliament, the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the public service. We will also study how Members of Parliament are elected, learning about the national electoral system and major political parties. We will apply this knowledge in a class simulation of the Canadian Parliament, where opposition parties are trying to bring down the government of the day.

After learning about parliamentary government, we will then ask what limits the Canadian government’s power. What constraints come from federalism, the courts and Indigenous government? How does the parliamentary system come into conflict with these other institutions, and can these conflicts be resolved?

Course Organization:

There will be an in-person 2-hour lecture plus an in-person tutorial, once a week.

Please note that you are expected to submit written assignments to Turnitin.


  • Tutorial Participation 10%
  • Group Activities: preparation for written assignments and the simulation 10%
  • Written Assignment 1: Think-piece on the parliamentary system 20%
  • Written Assignment 2: Report on the class simulation 25%
  • Final Exam (take-home) 35%


Grading scheme is subject to change in the event of unavoidable interruptions to class or tutorial schedules.



Dyck, Rand et al. 2020. POL 221: Canadian Politics: Critical Approaches. Ninth Edition. Top Hat. ISBN:9781774945858

Access keys for digital copies available at the SFU Bookstore, or through its online ordering system.

Please note this is a customized version of the textbook, designed for POL 221 at SFU – so you must buy the edition from the Bookstore, with the ISBN noted above. Other editions are longer, so cost more, and will not match the chapter numbers on the POL 221 syllabus.

Additional articles and news stories will be assigned, available on Canvas or online.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

The Department of Political Science strictly enforces a policy on plagiarism.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.