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Rural-Urban Proportional

PR tailored for Canada's geography

Rural-Urban Proportional

Rural-Urban Proportional builds on the work of previous commissions and assemblies, and combines elements of top up systems (such Mixed Member Proportional) and multi-member systems (such Single Transferable Vote) to meet the challenges of Canada’s geography. 

Proportional representation can only be achieved by moving away from winner-take-all single-member ridings to some other way of electing our representatives. However, ridings in sparsely-populated parts of Canada are already very large. This has led to proposals to stick with single-member ridings in such areas, and make use of multi-member ridings to ensure proportionality elsewhere.

Such an approach was used provincially for 30 years in Alberta and Manitoba. The cities of Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton used Single Transferable Vote (PR-STV) to elect multi-member teams ranging from 4-10 MLAs. All the ridings outside the cities were single member contests.

This produced proportional results in the cities where PR-STV was used, but disproportional results everywhere else. Because there were so many single-member ridings, the overall result for the province as a whole were still quite distorted. Not every voter was able to elect a representative who reflected their values.

A model like this was proposed federally in 2016 by Canada’s former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley. Concerned that such a model would produce insufficiently proportional results, Fair Vote Canada proposed to adapt the model to make it more proportional. They called this model Rural-Urban Proportional Representation. A model very similar to this is used in Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.

Read the Rural-Urban Proportional part of our submission to the federal Electoral Reform Committee, to learn more about this model.

How it Works

a) Multi-member districts in most places 

The key to the system is to elect representatives in multi-member districts wherever possible. The number of MPs elected in each multi-member district would be greater in densely populated “urban” areas and fewer in sparsely populated semi-urban and rural areas.

Depending on how the system is designed, voters would elect MPs from across the district by marking their ballots with a simple X (an open party list) or by ranking their choices (STV).

b) Single-member ridings in sparsely-populated regions 

The exception to the rule would be in sparsely-populated parts of the country which could retain single-member ridings. Voting in such ridings could be with a single X like in first-past-the-post, or by ranked ballot.

c) A small layer of regional top up seats

A high level of proportionality would be ensured by grouping these ridings and multi-member districts into top-up regions. Because the multi-member ridings are already proportional, we would only need about 10-15% regional top-up seats to make the results in the whole region proportional.

Making room for these top-up seats would require some adjustment in the boundaries of ridings and multi-member districts which would have to become about 15% bigger. However, the accomodation of top-up seats is much easier under Rural-Urban Proportional than under Mixed-Member Proportional, because the number of top-up seats needed (Regional MLAs) is much smaller. Under MMP, the size of local ridings would have to increase by about 67%.

Winners of regional top-up seats could be chosen from the best runners up at the sub-regional level or by regional open list.

Voting is simple. In this example (using STV), rank as few or as many candidates as you want in any order you like. You can rank across party lines.

If the Regional MPs are elected using an an open list rather than by best runners-up, a second ballot with an open list (like MMP) would be required.

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