MADE-IN-CANADA Proportional Representation reflects key values such as:
* Proportional results
* Local representation
* Regional representation
* More Voter Choice
*All MPs elected by and accountable to voters
What is Proportional Representation?
Our current system, first-past-the-post divides the country into 338 contiguous non-overlapping areas known as ridings, constituencies or electoral districts. Every place within Canada is located within a riding. About the same number of people reside in each riding and just one MP is elected to represent the riding in our Parliament.
Proportional representation is any voting system designed to produce a representative body (like a parliament, legislature, or council) where the voters are represented in that body in proportion to how they voted.
Our current voting system elects only one MP in each riding. When more than two candidates run in an election, MPs can be elected with less than half of the votes in the riding. The other half of the voters are unrepresented.
In contrast, any PR voting system elects several MPs to represent a given geographic region so that most voters in that region have a voice in Parliament. Voting systems with ONLY single member ridings will NOT provide voters with proportional outcomes.
Designs of Proportional Systems
There are three main types of PR voting systems:
- List PR – this is the most common form used around the world. You vote for either a party (closed list) or for a directly for a candidate from a party’s list (open list). Note: Closed list systems are not on the table for Canada.
- Mixed Systems – blending first-past-the-post elections in single member ridings, with List PR (top-up seats). The most common form is known as Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). MMP is used in Germany, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales.
- PR-STV (Single Transferable Vote) – voters elect a team of MPs in multi-member ridings using a ranked ballot. This has been used for more than 100 years in Ireland, Tasmania and the Australian Senate.
Fair Vote Canada has also developed a made-for-Canada hybrid system – Rural-Urban PR – tailoring features of MMP and STV to Canada’s unique geography.
PR Systems MUST have multi-member districts:
One key feature of PR voting systems is that they use electoral districts that elect two or more MPs.
PR-list and STV do this by combining current single member ridings into larger multi-member ridings. If five ridings are combined into one, then all voters in that new riding will help elect 5 MPs for that riding.
Mixed Systems groups the single member ridings into regions. Two or more regional MPs are elected from a party list which can be open or closed to represent that whole region in addition to the MPs elected as usual in the single member ridings.
If a voting system ONLY has single member ridings, then it CANNOT be a proportional voting system.
For more information on made-for-Canada systems, check out:
- Fair Vote Canada’s submission to the all-party committee on electoral reform (ERRE)
- Our system pages on the British Columbia campaign part of the website
Regardless of which system is used, all PR systems ensure that virtually all voters will have a significant effect on the final composition of Parliament.
Note on Majoritarian Systems
The common majoritarian systems discussed in Canada generally use a single tier of single member ridings. Our current system, known as First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) or Single Member Plurality (SMP) allows those who live within each riding to choose just one candidate on the ballot.
There has been discussion of changing the way we vote on this ballot so that we rank the candidates and our votes can be transferred to later choices until one candidate receives either half the votes cast or is the last one standing. This ballot can be referred to as a “preferential ballot” or a “ranked ballot.” A ranked ballot is tool. It can be used in MMP, STV and Rural-Urban PR.
However, used within single member ridings, this system does NOT produce proportional outcomes, and is known as the Alternative Vote (AV) or Instant Run-off Voting (IRV). Expert testimony to the federal ERRE shows it can produce results more distorted than first-past-the-post.
Useful resources about proportional representation:
- Fair Vote Canada’s submission to the ERRE (federal – evidence for PR and systems)
- PR systems for British Columbia
- Law Commission of Canada Report on Electoral Reform recommending Mixed Member Proportional (2004)
- BC Citizens Assembly Report recommending Single Transferable Vote (2005)
- Douglas J. Amy’s PR Library (US) has lots of useful articles. In particular, within his page titled Beginning Readings, try How Proportional Representation Elections Work
- Ontario’s Citizens’Assembly on Electoral Reform chose a form of MMP. A general discussion of voting systems called From Votes to Seats: Four Families of Electoral Systems is on their web site, as well as their final report.