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Are MPs “appointed” to seats from party lists?

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.” – 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

Fact Check

These claims are false in the context of systems suggested for Canada. With the proportional systems recommended for Canada, no MPs are “appointed” by parties – period. All MPs are selected by voters.

Opponents like to claim that “MPs will be appointed from party lists”. 

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 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.

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 Mixed Member Proportional ballot – with open lists. Note you vote directly for candidates. 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.

See below for an example of an STV ballot. Obviously, there are no “appointed MPs” here. To learn more about STV, go here.


Rural-Urban Proportional

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 above) or Single Transferable Vote (STV ballot above). 

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, to ensure voters who live in single member ridings also have a choice of representation.

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.

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