Local Proportional Representation is a consensus model. It aims to simultaneously satisfy many objections to proportional representation. We want Local PR to be the model that everyone can agree on, even though it may not be anyone’s favourite.
In listening to the debate so far – including town hall meetings, letters to the editor, concerns from MPs, reaction to previous proposals, members of the ERRE, etc. – we heard the following ten concerns that an electoral system should satisfy.
Canadians are used to having a local MP that knows the local issues and that constituents can depend on to help address their problems. Most are not willing to give this up.
Constituents, MPs, and members of local riding associations, particularly in ridings that are already large, are all concerned that ridings do not increase in size.
Local PR maintains existing riding boundaries and guarantees a the election of a local-nominated MP within each riding.
A valuable side effect is that Local PR can be implemented easily with little disruption.
Many Canadians see a fundamental problem with FPTP which can give 100% of the power to a party receiving less than 40% of the vote. The preferred way to address this is with a proportional electoral system.
Local PR is proportional. Its Gallagher Index of Disproportionality is less than 5 for almost all simulated scenarios. The ERRE report called for systems with a Gallagher Index of less than 5. Adding a very modest number of compensatory (“top-up”) seats similar to Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) at a later date can increase the proportionality even further.
Canadian voters are tired of voting strategically. They say over and over that they would like to vote for a candidate rather than against one they fear. Furthermore, voters want to know that if they support a candidate who may not win that their vote won’t be wasted.
Local PR uses a ranked or preferential ballot. Voters rank as many or as few candidates as they wish, in order, starting with 1. Votes that can’t help elect a preferred candidate are fairly transferred to other candidates to help them.
Canadians believe that MPs should be accountable to voters rather than party bosses. Voters should be able to replace a poorly performing MP in the next election.
Under Local PR every MP must face the voters directly and win the support of an appropriate number of voters (based on the number of MPs being elected in the region).
MyDemocracy.ca, the government’s effort to educate people about electoral reform, asked about cross-party cooperation six different ways. In each one a strong majority of Canadians indicated they wanted better collaboration, even if it slowed decisions down.
More collaborative governance is a feature of many proportional systems, including Local PR. There are at least two effects at play. First, the ranked or preferential ballot which encourages candidates to treat their fellow candidates well to attract 2nd and 3rd choices. Second, most governments formed proportionally are coalitions that need to work across party lines to advance their agenda. Coalitions are the norm in most democracies.
Canadians are a diverse group and want to see that diversity reflected in their leaders. People want to see a reflection of themselves when they look at their parliamentatians.
Local PR, like other proportional systems, tends to elect a more diverse set of people because voters in a given region elect more than just one person.
People like having a choice of parties, but recognize that too many parties can be counter-productive. The multi-member nature of Local PR requires a candidate to earn a significant number of votes before being elected. This forms a natural barrier to niche, special-interest parties.
Opponents of proportional representation claim the voting process can be too difficult.
Local PR’s flexible ballot allows the voter to make it as simple as FPTP. With a modest amount of additional effort, a voter can rank their ballot to avoid a wasted vote and to increase proportionality.
Many Canadians believe that we already have enough politicians and should not enlarge the House of Commons.
Local PR does not add MPs. When our usual processes redraw boundaries or add MPs after the next census, Local PR+ could be used to increase proportionality.
In light of recent experience in Europe and elsewhere, many Canadians are concerned that “fringe parties” might acquire undue amounts of power under a proportional system. However, for “fringe parties” to form government in a proportional system, they would need to either win 50% of the vote or work together with other parties who presumably would not accept the fringe parts of their platform anyway. The dangers of a fringe minority taking power are actually higher under first-past-the-post where one party can take power with as little as 35% of the popular vote. Like all proportional systems, Local PR rewards each party according to its share of the vote.