The BC Symposium on Proportional Representation

The Symposium final report has now been submitted:

PDF icon BC_Symposium_on_PR_submission_20180228_FINAL.pdf

See also the blog post on the symposium.

Executive Summary:

Our report consists of two parts: Part I on voting systems and Part II on the referendum process. Some Symposium participants have chosen to sign Part I, but not Part II, of the report. There is also one recommendation in Appendix D, signed by a smaller group.

Part I: Recommendations on proportional voting systems to be considered for British Columbia

  • Recommendation A: No voting system should be considered that does not meet certain minimum requirements (as specified in the body of the text).

  • Recommendation B: In choosing among voting systems that do meet the requirements, consideration should be given to certain additional guidelines (as specified in the body of the text).

  • Recommendation C: Attention should be paid to the specific implementation details of each system, as these can substantially affect the results. This is especially true with respect to the Mixed Member Proportional system (MMP), for which we recommend a particular implementation based on the Bavarian model (Appendix A).

  • Recommendation D: We provide a list of 5 proportional voting systems that perform well on our criteria, together with a table that compares them on a variety of measures and outcomes (Table 1). We believe that all of these systems are worthy of consideration for adoption in British Columbia.

  • Recommendation E: In choosing a voting system, issues of gender, Indigenous, and minority representation should be explicitly considered, and representative leaders and experts from these groups should be consulted. Each system will require a different set of actions to improve representation, and these steps should be part of any discussion of election reform.

Part II: Recommendations on the referendum structure and process 

  • Recommendation F: The referendum ballot should consist of two questions: – Question 1 asking voters whether British Columbia should adopt a proportional voting system, to be selected from the systems in Question 2; – Question 2 asking all voters (including those who voted against PR in Question 1) to rank two to four specific proportional voting systems. The outcome of Question 2 will determine the new voting system to be used in British Columbia in the event that Question 1 passes. We recommend that the systems in Question 2 be chosen from the list of five systems presented in Part I of this report (Recommendation D). If other systems are chosen, we recommend that they satisfy at least our list of minimum requirements (Recommendation A) and additional criteria (Recommendation B).

  • Recommendation G: The referendum questions should be worded as neutrally as possible, using guidelines that we provide.

  • Recommendation H: The vote-counting process for the second question should be structured to ensure that it will, if possible, choose an option that beats all other options pairwise.

  • Recommendation J: The systems under consideration should be specified in sucient detail, and these details made available to the voters.

  • Recommendation K: Prior to the referendum, the government should take concrete steps to include citizens in a deliberative process on reform, such as by convening a Citizens’ Jury to evaluate the proposed systems (including FPTP).

  • Recommendation L: Relevant information should be sent along with the referendum ballot and made available online. This should include the system descriptions and details (from Recommendation J) and the report of the Citizens’ Jury (from Recommendation K).

  • Recommendation M: The Government should make an explicit commitment that, if the referendum passes, there will be a follow-up referendum after at least 2-3 election cycles, in which citizens will have the opportunity to vote on whether to stay with the new proportional system


Rural BCBC voters BC flagBC familyUrban BCElections BC


  • The BC government is about to hold a referendum on electoral reform. What are the questions it should be asking voters to decide on?
  • What is proportional representation? What are the concrete options for reform and what guidance can experts give in choosing among those options?
  • How should the government be involving the public?


The BC Symposium on PR was a gathering of election reform experts from British Columbia and across Canada, who met in Vancouver to discuss the upcoming referendum and make recommendations to the government.


The symposium took place on February 16-18, 2018, and culminated in an open session to which the public is invited.


Symposium sponsors


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