ARMCHAIR MAYOR – Don’t be fooled by the hocus pocus of prop rep math

THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS wrong with the referendum on proportional representation, it would take as long to cover it all as it would to explain the convoluted and foggy alternatives on the ballot.

So let’s just talk about the hocus pocus of proportional representation (also known as prop rep, pro rep or PR) math. This one giant flaw should be enough to make us run, not walk, away from prop rep.

Throughout the months leading up to this vote, prop rep boosters have relied heavily on a simplistic abracadabra formula to convince us their system makes sense.

Their favourite line is “40 per cent of the votes should equal 40 per cent of the seats,” or variations thereof.

With the current First Past the Post, they say, “39 per cent of the votes = 54 per cent of the seats = 100 per cent of the power” but with PR “39 per cent of the vote = 39 per cent of the seats = Compromise, cooperation, collaboration.” This is labeled “Proportional Representation Math.”

I once called it “voodoo math.”

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Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former school board chair, former editor of The Kamloops Daily News, and a current director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He was awarded the Jack Webster Foundation’s lifetime achievement award in 2011. His editorials are published Monday through Thursdays, and Saturdays on CFJC Today, CFJC Midday and CFJC Evening News. Contact him at

About Mel Rothenburger (6691 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

11 Comments on ARMCHAIR MAYOR – Don’t be fooled by the hocus pocus of prop rep math

  1. I enjoyed your column on PR, Mel. I believe that elections are fairest when they recognize that people in different geographic areas (ridings) should elect the MLA that best represents their interests. PR negates that reality by focusing on the popular vote. PR divides society into smaller and smaller tribes.

    If you are interested, I wrote a column on PR called — How Proportional Representation Divides Society:

  2. Elaine Sedgman // October 13, 2018 at 7:30 AM // Reply

    Perhaps read Gary Mason’s opinion piece on pro rep in today’s (Saturday) Globe & Mail.

  3. Enough Mel. Lets give it a go.

  4. In recent elections, I would have liked to vote Green. I sometimes do, but really, it’s a waste of my vote as my vote doesn’t elect anyone and ends up supporting someone who I really don’t think deserves to be in a position of power.

    I’ve lived in Kamloops most of my adult life and have never had a representative in the provincial or federal government that actually shares my values and adequately represents my point of view. I don’t think it’s right that my values (and many others in the same boat) are unrepresented.

    It saddens me that you don’t seem to feel that we deserve better. In the last election a few Greens were elected, but nowhere near what the share of the vote should have afforded them. At a time when environmental and climate issues are so important and our governments continue to ignore this issue, having the ability to have differing points of view at the decision-making table is really important. We need to do more to conserve our planet for our grandchildren and great grandchildren! We need to restore faith in democracy and the value of voting! Pro rep is potentially one way to do it. I think we need to give it a chance.

  5. Garry Worth // October 7, 2018 at 4:08 PM // Reply

    Why is it that those of the centre right persuasion are afraid of change? Isn’t it time to get away from the extreme shifts of conservative/pro-corporate policies to socially progressive democratic policies—and then back again when there’s a change in government with much less than 50% of the popular vote. Why do we want to be one of the few remaining major democracies in the world that continues with the archaic British parliamentary system of voting—ie Britain, India, USA and Canada. Some might describe their vision of Pro Rep using a voodoo math viewpoint using catchy phrases that put a negative spin to Pro Rep leaving us with the feeling of a positive spin to FPTP. Mathematical arguements are usually taken with suspicion in political debates—folks often remember the catchy phrase that “liars figure and figures lie”. Sorry Mel—not calling you a liar but I think you’re twisting the facts a little here.

    • Mel Rothenburger // October 7, 2018 at 9:49 PM // Reply

      There’s no getting around the fact that PR is an at-large voting system and FPTP is a ward system. You can’t turn an at-large system into a ward system and have both at the same time — that’s why PR tries to do and it doesn’t work.

  6. Jennie Stadnichuk // October 6, 2018 at 11:54 AM // Reply

    Mel, it’s unfortunate you don’t actually research the reality of ProRep. Here’s a link where you can do that!

    • Mel Rothenburger // October 6, 2018 at 12:34 PM // Reply

      Actually, I’ve done a lot of research and if you think any of my facts are incorrect please outline which ones you’re concerned about and back it up with your own research. The website you provide is by two prop rep supporters. Dr. Dennis Pilon, of course, has done a lot of campaigning on behalf of prop rep, including a presentation in Kamloops sponsored by Fair Vote Kamloops, the local prop rep proponent.

  7. All population based models will always have the balance of power where the highest concentrations of people are. In BC that means the lower mainland will always the most say because they have the most representatives. Also if I vote for a party that gets 38% of the vote but has no part in actually governing then indeed I have no working representation. I don’t know that PR is essentially better but we should change something because FPTP doesn’t work all that well either.

  8. Is “voodoo math ” like “Not being a fan of direct democracy ” ?

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