Most developed countries use some form of Proportional Representation (PR) voting. The most frequently discussed in Canada are STV (Single Transferable Vote) and MMP (Mixed Member Proportional), but there are other possibilities as well.
Three Natural Voting System Options for BC
There are three types of voting systems that have been recently recommended in provincial or federal electoral reform processes and so are natural options for BC to consider:
- the Multi-Member approach recommended by the 2004 BC Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform
- the Top-Up approach recommended by the 2004 Law Commission and the NDP and Green Party members of the recent federal Electoral Reform Commission
- the Combined Multi-Member & Top-Up approach also recommended by the NDP and Green Party members of the federal ERC
Multi-Member systems are ‘small region’ systems in which several current ridings are grouped together and a set of MPs or MLAs elected who reflect the diversity of voters in the region. The Single Transferable Vote (STV) variant was used at the municipal level in all four western provinces and in several major cities (Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg) at the provincial level until as late as the 1970s. It is presently used at all levels of government in Ireland, for the Northern Irish Parliament, in Scottish local government elections, in several Australian states and the Senate, in some New Zealand cities, in Cambridge and Minneapolis in the USA, and most recently has been authorized for use in Ontario cities and towns.
Top-Up systems such as the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system typically have about 60% of the MPs or MLAs elected in single member ridings (the same way we do now), with the balance elected as ‘top-up’ representatives to compensate for the disproportionality of the riding elections. MMP was invented for use in Germany, and is also used now in New Zealand and in the Scottish and Welsh devolved assemblies. Canadian proponents typically recommend using ‘open lists’, where voters vote specifically for top-up candidates.
Combining Multi-Member + Top-Up approaches is a modern-day refinement of the way voting used to happen in Manitoba and Alberta. The Rural-Urban PR model was proposed by Fair Voting BC and Fair Vote Canada during the federal electoral reform process. Like typical multi-member systems, it offers multi-member ridings in the more urban areas, but also allows for single member ridings in more rural areas; because of the improved proportionality that comes from the multi-member ridings, it needs a much smaller number of top-up MLAs compared with MMP (as few as 10-15% vs 40%) to ensure proportionality everywhere.
We invite you to read the sections below to learn more about the main options that have been proposed for use in Canada (and more particularly in BC). We also recommend an excellent primer prepared by the Library of Parliament.