Electoral Reboot: Rural-Urban Proportional

Electoral Reboot: Rural-Urban Proportional

December 1, 2016 5:31pmET

Is a made-in-Canada proportional system possible that takes into account this country’s physical size and population density?

Former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley proposed one solution to the Special Committee on Electoral Reform: group urban ridings into multi-member districts (four to five MPs) while maintaining single-member ridings in rural areas.

How does it work?

Fair Vote Canada submitted a revised version of Kingsley’s idea, called “Rural-Urban Proportional.” As they describe it:

1) Multi-member ridings in the urban areas (which could be elected with a ranked ballot – STV – or an open list)

2) Single member ridings in the rural and small urban areas (which could also be elected with a ranked ballot – or by first-past-the-post)

3) A small layer of regional top up seats to make the overall results in the region proportional (an idea borrowed from Sweden, where these are called ‘adjustment seats’).

The committee

Although the main committee report made no recommendation about a specific PR option, the NDP and Greens endorsed Rural-Urban Proportional as a potential replacement for First Past the Post — with an extra 50 House of Commons seats for “regional compensatory MPs … seats would be drawn from territories, provinces, or sub-regions within provinces. As such, a full riding redistribution would be unnecessary.”

They want it on a referendum ballot, along with Mixed Member Proportional (MMP).

The past

Alberta used the Single Transferable Vote (STV) in urban provincial ridings from 1926 to 1955.

Winnipeg’s provincial ridings used STV from 1920 to 1953.

(Alberta and Manitoba also used ranked ballots, known as Alternative Vote, in rural ridings from the 1920s to 1950s.)

Here is Kingsley’s full committee appearance on July 7:

And here is Kelly Carmichael of Fair Vote Canada at the committee on Oct. 20:

-Andrew Thomson