Most developed countries use some form of Proportional Representation (PR). The most frequently discussed in Canada are STV (Single Transferable Vote) and MMP (Mixed Member Proportional), but there are other possibilities as well.
STV was widely used across western Canada starting about one hundred years ago. It 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. For the most part, STV was eliminated by the party in power because it gave appropriate representation to the opposition parties, which made the governing party uncomfortable. In North America, it is now used in Cambridge and Minneapolis. It is also 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, and most recently has been authorized for use in Ontario cities and towns.
MMP was invented for use in Germany, and is also used now in New Zealand and in the Scottish and Welsh devolved assemblies.
13 Formal Review Processes Recommend PR
Here in Canada, we have had 13 formal electoral system review processes. Every single one has recommended that we change how we vote and that we adopt some form of proportional voting system. With PR systems, the seats in Parliament accurately reflect how voters cast their votes, and as many voters as possible end up with an MP they have helped elect.
Court Says One MP Can’t Represent All Voters
The root problem with our current voting system is that, by assigning only a single MP to each geographical area (riding), it pretends that a single MP can adequately represent the diverse interests and perspectives of all citizens in that riding. But the Federal Court has rejected that argument, saying “an elected representative who is faced with the conflicting interests of the majority and a minority will often have to choose to represent the interests of the majority” (or, indeed, a mere plurality, since an MP can be elected under our system with substantially less than 50% of the vote – sometimes even under 30%!).
Real Representation Requires Multimember Districts
For this reason, all proportional voting systems enable each geographic area to be represented by more than one MP in order to more properly reflect the diversity of perspectives in each area. In some approaches, a team of MPs will represent a given area. In others, there is one MP uniquely assigned to a given area, but a group of MPs have responsibility for representing a larger region that includes that area. In all cases, each voter will have the option of approaching more than one MP for assistance in advancing their political concerns.
We invite you to read the sections below to learn more about the main options that have been proposed for use in Canada. We also recommend an excellent primer prepared by the Library of Parliament.