Why choose proportional representation?

August 12, 2016

Most countries (52%) now use some form of proportional representation (PR) to determine how their elections translate votes into representation.

PR would guarantee that any party with significant support from Canadian voters is represented in the House of Commons, proportionate to that support.

While FPTP is a winner-take-all system, leaving nothing for those who fail to win, PR ensures that as many votes as possible count, and that election results closely match the popular vote.

So, if a party gets 30% of the votes, it wins 30% of the seats in the House of Commons.

There are two popular models for proportional representation: Mixed-Member Proportional Representation (MMP) and Single-Transferable Vote (STV).

Mixed-member proportional representation

MMP is the simplest way for Canada to move forward with new rules they can trust. Canadians would still get to vote for their local representative and at the same time have a more fairly balanced representation in the House of Commons.

With MMP, people would use a new ballot that ask them to make two choices. First, they would vote for a local Member of Parliament, just like they already do. Next, they would be asked to vote for the political party they also want to represent them. The first vote gets used to elect the local representative. The second vote gets used to balance each party’s number of seats in the House of Commons, if necessary, to reflect their share of the vote.

It is still possible for one party to win a majority government using MMP, but that only happens when one party actually gets the majority of votes. If no one party can do that, then parties must work together to get things done. The added bonus – this cooperation among political parties results in a much fairer approach to government that’s less about adversarial politics and more about finding common ground in order to produce results.

Single transfer vote

Another option many electoral scientists support, is the single transfer vote model of proportional representation (STV). With STV, voters select multiple candidates that they wish to represent them in their electoral district. Electoral districts would be expanded from their existing size depending on the population of a geographic region (ie, The seven electoral districts in Vancouver may be merged to elect seven Members of Parliament (MP), who would represent the entire city, rather than their existing neighbourhoods). 

Voters either rank the individual candidates – 1, 2, 3, etc – in the order they prefer from all the candidates, OR they may vote for the order of preference published in advance by the political party of their choice (ie. A voter represented by three MPs may vote for candidates from three different parties, or vote for all three candidates from a single party).

A candidate is elected when they have received a minimum number of votes as either the preferred choice or some combination of being a preferred second, third, forth, etc. choice of voters.