BC’s federal ridings as a basis for PR, part 1 – MMP

For the 1999 election, Ontario switched from their previous provincial riding boundaries to the federal ridings. This resulted in a reduction in ridings from 130 down to 103. It was genius in that 103 elected representatives was likely quite adequate for a provincial legislature, and adopting the federal ridings meant that the Elections Ontario was no longer burdened with the task of redrawing the ridings as Ontario’s population changed. That would simply be done for them from time to time by Elections Canada, on the federal government’s dime.

The point has been made that BC could do something similar, and adopt the 42 federal ridings in BC as the basis of a new PR system (particularly if it were a mixed member or multi-member riding system of some sort). This could be done either as a stop-gap system that’d likely be more acceptable to the average BC voter, or as the basis of a more permanent system. And there are a few ways it could be done.

The most obvious way to do it would be to use BC’s federal ridings as the local constituency seats in a mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) system. At present BC has 87 provincial ridings, and 42 federal ridings. Under this system 42 people would be elected directly (preferably with a ranked ballot rather than first-past-the-post… the fact that most MMP systems use FPTP to elect the constituency seats makes my head explode, when there are drastically better single-member riding systems out there!).

The province would likely be broken down into regions that would essentially be mini-MMP elections unto themselves. Each would elect several people in the constituencies that had been grouped into those regions, and be allocated top-up seats as needed to bring those areas of the province back up to how many MLAs they’d had under the old provincial ridings. We now have a province-wide MMP system that can be rapidly implemented in time for the next election, without a boundary commission.

BC has chosen to over-represent our rural ridings vs. what Elections Canada has done with BC’s federal ridings. This system as described above retains that feature since we’ve given each region the same number of MLAs as they have now.

As Elections Canada changes BC’s federal boundaries (currently done once every ten years), Elections BC would adopt the new ridings and re-group them into regions. The number of MLAs wouldn’t have to change each time, though they could if desired (which would affect the number of top-up seats).

Speaking of top-up seats, we’re talking about seats given to the parties in each region to make the final vote proportional. Those could be done off of a party list, or (perhaps more appealingly) could be done under the Baden-Württemberg system where the election results determine who gets top-up seats by awarding them to the candidate(s) who came closest without actually winning, for each party who earned a top=-up seat. So if the Green Party had earned a top-up seat in a region, a Green who had done the best in that area without actually pulling out a win would get the nod. This system gives voters an indirect degree of control over who the candidate winning the top-up seat is.


One thought on “BC’s federal ridings as a basis for PR, part 1 – MMP”

  1. Good work. However, a Boundaries Commission is nothing to be afraid of, and would give the North more local representation than your model. It would also solve the problem of having to count Fraser-Nicola as part of the Fraser Valley-Langley Region (see below).

    You say Ontario’s premier Mike Harris was a genius for shrinking Ontario’s House from 130 to 103 elected representatives, which you say was likely quite adequate for Ontario’s legislature. Many in Ontario would disagree. You say adopting the federal ridings meant that Ontario was no longer burdened with the task of redrawing the ridings. This “burden” allowed the provincial Boundaries Commission to use municipal, school district, and health boundaries, which federal Boundaries Commissions usually ignore as irrelevant to federal issues. Ontario is now burdened with provincial boundaries not designed for purpose. Does BC want that?

    Details here:


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