Claim: “Jean Chretien railed against efforts to replace Canada’s current electoral system with proportional representation, calling it a way for “apparatchiks” to “enter Parliament through the back door.” – Jean Chretien, National Post, June 2018
“When you vote for a political party you are giving over your authority to that political party to appoint people to the legislature.” – BC NO side spokesperson Suzanne Anton, Global News
These claims are false in the context of systems suggested for Canada.
Opponents like to claim that “MPs will be appointed from party lists”. That’s the gist of the claims above.
A word about “party lists”. Essentially, party lists are about voter choice.
Imagine you go the grocery store to pick up some juice, but find there is only one kind of juice on the shelf.
Essentially, this is first-past-the-post. Each party produces a candidate “list” for us – but it’s one person long.
If you want to vote Party A, there’s one candidate running.
If you don’t find that individual inspiring or trustworthy – too bad. There’s no choice for voters WITHIN each party.
Proportional representation offer voters more choice.
Voter choice was one of the top values identified by the Law Commission of Canada (which recommended Mixed Member Proportional) and the BC Citizens’ Assembly (which recommended Single Transferable Vote).
This choice often appears as a LIST of candidates.
With the proportional systems recommended for Canada, no MPs are “appointed” by parties – period. All MPs are selected by voters.
To read more about “party lists” in detail within different proportional systems, see below.
Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
With Mixed Member Proportional, you vote for your local candidate like you do now – using first-past-the-post. About 60% of the seats are filled this way.
Then you select an individual regional candidate from a list prepared by the party. This design is called an “open list”.
The order of the candidates on the list makes no difference (no party hacks get rewarded). The seats are filled by candidates who were the most popular with voters, but did not win a local seat.
See below for an example of an MMP ballot. Learn more about MMP here.
Single Transferable Vote (PR-STV)
Single Transferable Vote offers choice without party lists. It is a candidate-based system, although the party affiliation of the candidates are clearly identified.
MPs are elected in local districts. Each local district elects a team of MPs.
STV is the proportional system that offers voters the most choice. You rank your candidates in order of preference, as many as you like, across party lines, and the most popular candidates win the seats.
Obviously, there are no “appointed MPs” here. To learn more about STV, go here.
Rural-Urban Proportional (RUP) is a system designed by Fair Vote Canada and presented in its submission to the federal electoral reform committee in 2016 (ERRE).
Rural-Urban PR takes elements of Mixed Member Proportional and Single Transferable Vote and combines them to create a system tailored for Canada’s geography.
Simply, most voters would elect a team of local MPs, using an open list (like the bottom part of the MMP ballot) or Single Transferable Vote. Some voters.
In rural or semi-urban ridings – where it is impractical to group ridings together – voters would continue to elect one MP just as now.
All voters would also elect regional MPs.
A similar proportional design is used in Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.
Rural-Urban PR is one of two systems endorsed by the NDP and Green Party in their supplementary report to the ERRE.
Where do party lists come in?
With Rural-Urban PR, the MPs in multi-member ridings can be elected by PR-STV (see ballot in the previous section) OR an open list (see the second half of the MMP ballot in the first section).
The regional top-up MPs can also be elected with an open list, or the seats may be filled from the best runners-up in the local ridings.
There are no “appointed MPs”. Rural-Urban PR is just a variation of the other two systems.
To learn more about Rural-Urban PR, see here.