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What is proportional representation?

An Introduction to Proportional Representation Systems

QUICK LINK: Read more about 
Single Transferable Vote (STV)
QUICK LINK: Read more about Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
QUICK LINK: Read more about Rural-Urban Proportional

 Made-in-Canada Proportional Representation Models

Proportional systems can be designed in different ways. Fair Vote Canada believes any proposals for PR in Canada should be “made-for-Canada” proposals that retain a strong element of local and regional representation, while ensuring that representatives are directly elected by the voters and personally accountable to them. These criteria have led Fair Vote Canada to recommend regionally-based models in which voters personally elect all candidates.

All models of proportional representation that have been put forward for Canada feature:

  • Proportional results (30% of the vote = about 30% of the seats)
  • Local representation
  • Regional representation
  • More voter choice 
  • Direct election of representatives and accountability to voters.

With proportional representation:

  • Almost every vote will count to define the makeup of the legislature.
  • Almost every voter will help elect a representative who shares their values.
  • All regions will have representation in both government and as part of the opposition.
  • A single party will no longer be able to attain a majority government with just 40% of the vote.
  • Cooperation and compromise will become the norm.

Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)

Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) as envisaged for Canada would involve the creation of top-up regions normally including from 8 to 16 representatives. About 60% of these representatives would be elected as they are now, using first-past-the-post in single-member ridings. This would free up about 40% of the available seats to be allocated as top-ups to ensure proportionality overall in each region. In the transition from our current system to MMP, existing single member ridings would be made larger to make room for the top-up seats and avoid having to increase the number of seats. Citizens wishing to contact their representative would have a choice of contacting their local representative or one of the regional representatives.

MMP is used in Germany, New Zealand and Scotland.

Click here for more about Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)

Single Transferable Vote (PR-STV)

Single Transferable Vote (STV) is a multi-member model. Instead of electing representatives one at a time in single-member ridings, we group a number of ridings together and elect  group of representatives that reflects the diversity of voter preferences in the STV district. Each voter gets a single vote, using a preferential ballot that allows voters to express their preferences 1, 2, 3 for as many candidates as they wish to rank. Candidates need to achieve a certain share of the vote to win a seat. 

PR-STV is used in Ireland, some states/territories in Australia and was used provincially for decades to elect the MLAs in urban ridings in Alberta and Manitoba.

Click here to learn more about the Single Transferable Vote (PR-STV)

Rural-Urban Proportional

Rural-Urban Proportional combines features of both multi-member and top-up systems, and is designed to accommodate the specifics of Canada’s varied geography. The aim of Rural-Urban Proportional is to avoid creating exceedingly large multi-member ridings in sparsely-populated parts of the country. The number of seats per riding would be reduced in such areas, which could include a certain number of single-member ridings if necessary. To ensure a high level of proportionality despite this feature, the system would include a small number of top-up seats at the regional level. Citizens wishing to contact their representative could choose one from the party of their choice or one closer to home.

Similar models are used in Iceland, Norway and Denmark.

Click here to learn more about Rural-Urban Proportional

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