A Simple Alternative to Proportional Representation
I tend to be supportive of proportional representation for the usual reasons. However, there are some significant advantages to electing federal MPs (or provincial MLAs)Â from geographic ridings: individual MPs represent, and are accountable to, a defined group of citizens; these citizens have “local” MPs to whom they can raise concerns and from whom they can seek assistance; local issues are voiced in Parliament; and individuals may be elected as independents without party affiliation.
The compromise normally proposed is to have some MPs elected from geographic ridings and others elected from nationwide (or provincewide) party lists. While I do not object to such proposals, it seems to me that a more elegant solution is possible.
We could more or less retain the existing federal (or provincial) ridings, but merge the urban ones into larger, multi-member ridings. Rural areas and small cities, where locality is arguably most important, would continue to elect indvidual MPs in first-past-the-post races. Larger cities would be represented by groups of MPs elected proportionally.
Currently, Toronto has twenty-three MPs elected by first-past-the-post in twenty-three ridings separated byÂ largely artificial boundaries. Under my proposed system, Toronto would be a single riding represented by twenty-three MPs elected through proportional representation. Toronto issues would receive just as much voice in Parliament as they do now and the citizens of Toronto would have “local” MPs. However, the mix of MPs from Toronto would far better reflect how Torontonians voted.
Rather than dividing Regina and Saskatoon into four rural-urban-split ridings, each city could be a single riding represented by three MPs. Again, both cities would receive a mix of local MPs more reflective of how their citizens voted.
Since most Canadians live in cities large enough to be multi-member ridings, this system would introduce a great deal of proportionality at the national level without losing the advantages of electing representatives from particular geographic areas. The notion of multi-member ridings is not particularly radical given that at least some provinces used to have them. Political scientists mayÂ already haveÂ thoroughly examined the possibility of reviving them, but it does not seem to have garnered any public attention.