Rural-Urban Proportional (also known as Flexible District PR)

Rural-Urban PR is one of the three proportional systems on the ballot in BC’s electoral reform referendum.

The main advantage of Rural-Urban Proportional is its flexibility for rural and urban BC.

Based on the Attorney General’s report, an all-party committee with experts, citizens and Elections BC will follow the referendum to work out the exact details of a Rural-Urban Proportional BC.  An Independent Boundaries Commission can design the ridings to meet the needs of each region.

On this page, we have tailored the description of Rural-Urban Proportional to match as closely as possible with the description in  the Attorney General’s Report, while staying consistent with the original intention of Fair Vote Canada and Fair Voting BC.

Background and Rationale for Rural Urban Proportional

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

It is often suggested that MLAs in urban areas could be elected in multi-member ridings, while rural areas could remain single-member ridings. The goal is usually to keep the rural ridings from becoming much larger and recognize the unique character of northern and interior ridings.

Such an approach was used for 30 years in Alberta and Manitoba provincially. 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.

Rural-Urban PR takes this basic idea proposed by Jean-Pierre Kingsley and with a small adaptation creates a highly proportional system. 

A model very similar to this is used in Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.

How it Works

a) Multi-member districts in most of the province.

In urban and semi-urban areas, several MLAs will be elected in multi-member districts using Single Transferable Vote (PR-STV). We recommend checking out our page on STV here. The result is a small team of local MPs who reflect the diversity of how people voted.

The number of MLAs elected in each district would be greater in densely populated urban areas fewer in semi-urban areas.


b) Single-member ridings in areas considered too sparsely-populated to allow for multi-member districts. 

In these ridings, voters would vote for a single MLA using first-past-the-post (one X), just like today.

c) A small layer of regional MLAs (“top up seats”) to make the overall results proportional for the region as a whole.

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 (and therefore in the provincial legislature) proportional.

This means that all ridings and districts may only need to become about 15% bigger, depending on the design in each region.

Accommodating 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, if 40% of the MLAs are regional, the size of local ridings would have to increase by about 67%.

Voting with Rural-Urban Proportional is simple. In these example ballot below , urban voters use STV to elect local MLAs. You rank as few or as many candidates as you want in any order you like. You can rank across party lines.

In the most sparsely populated ridings, voting would look like MMP.  A local MLA would be elected using first-past-the-post, just like today, and you would also choose a regional candidate from the party of your choice.

Excellent information and examples of Rural-Urban PR for BC can be found on Fair Voting BC’s website.