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Leadnow | September 28, 2016

Voting Systems Part 4: Rural-Urban Proportional

Several months ago we published a blog that explained a few of the most common types of proportional representation used around the world.

Over the last few weeks, there has been another system floated by our friends at Fair Vote Canada in response to a similar suggestion by former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley. The model that Fair Vote is proposing is called ‘Rural-Urban Proportional’. This is how it works [1]: 

  1. Urban areas would have multi-member ridings and would elect MPs using proportional representation (such as through Single-Transferable Vote or with an ‘Open List’, both of which we explain further in this blog)
  2. We would leave a flexible number of rural and smaller urban ridings as single-member ridings like they are now. These ridings would either use first-past-the-post, as they do now, or a ranked ballot.

  3. We would add a small number of regional seats to represent the voters for parties who are unrepresented due to the rural ridings using a non-proportional method. We could elect representatives for these regional seats by simply selecting the ‘best runner up’ from local riding elections, or by using an open party list that voters would weigh in on. In either case, the MPs filling the regional top up seats are chosen by voters.

Here’s an example of how this could look in the province of Alberta:



Image credit: Fair Vote Canada

We’re definitely intrigued by rural-urban proportional (RUP), and here’s why it might be a good idea for Canada:

  1. It’s a ‘made-in-Canada’ solution. It addresses the concerns raised about rural ridings becoming too large under other proportional models by keeping rural ridings about the same size as they are now.
  2. It is proportional. It mixes elements of different PR systems to create an overall result that is as proportional as other systems like STV and MMP.

  3. It also would keep the overall number of MPs and the size of ridings under control. Fair Vote estimates we’d only need to add about 15% more MPs to our overall total OR make rural ridings 15% bigger to create proportionality.

  4. It means that rural voters still get to feel represented, because if they don’t have a local MP they support they are likely to at least have a regional one.

  5. It is still simple. Depending on how it’s designed, voters in urban areas would use a simple ranked ballot, and rural voters would either use the same type of ballot they do now, or a simple ranked ballot as well.

To read more about RUP and to see some simulations of how it could work, check out Fair Vote’s submission to the Electoral Reform Committee.

What do you think of RUP? Let us know at


[1] Fair Vote Canada. Rural-Urban Proportional: Bringing a new, creative model to the table. 2016.