Contrary to the 'No' side's speculation, the evidence (and experience from other countries) suggests that rural voters (like all voters) will benefit from MMP.
There are 4 reasons - read more below...
1 - ALL local districts - not just rural ones - get bigger. And ALL voters gain proportionality!
Under First Past the Post, rural ridings have been getting larger every time the boundaries are adjusted, and it feels like the rural vote is continually being diluted, as the population shifts more to urban centres. So when rural voters see their districts getting larger, they feel less and less represented. It's a familiar feeling.
When we change to MMP, it is true that rural districts will get 50% larger - HOWEVER, this time, it's a different type of re-districting. Urban districts would grow 50% larger too.
And in return, every voter in every riding gets 9 province-wide representatives, from a variety of parties. Rural voters will be able to place a vote directly for one of these representatives, and will be able to contact any of them when they need support.
All districts, urban and rural, will each have about 5,500 voters, as opposed to the current 3,700. this is still very small in comparison to anywhere else in Canada. You will still know your MLA, and likely know at least one of the list MLAs.
2 - Uniting rural communities across the whole Island
One of the benefits of having an island-wide set of representatives is that people who are part of geographically spread-out communities - for example the farming, fishing, Acadian or Mi'kmaq communities - would be able to pool their votes across district boundaries to vote for "one of their own" who appears on a party list. For example, farmer from Tyne Valley would be able to support a farmer from Morell who is a known leader in the agriculture community. This is not currently possible under First Past the Post.
3 - Parties will include rural representatives in their list, or will be punished at the polls.
If a party were to stack their proportional list with all urban representatives, then that party can be assured that 60% of island voters will be placing their votes with other parties, who do offer proper representation of rural issues. The same 'contagion effect' as applies to women also applies to the rural community - as long as one party offers strong rural representation on their list, all of the competing parties will do the same, to ensure that they remain competitive in rural areas.
Under First Past the Post, if one party won your district last time with a very large victory margin, it is likely to be neglected by other parties because it's not a 'swing' district. But with MMP, when every vote, everywhere, really counts, all the parties will be looking for your vote, aiming to represent you. They will nominate a list candidate to do that. When one party nominates some strong rural candidates, other parties will have to do the same if they want to remain competitive.
4 - Incentive for island-wide MLAs to set up offices in regional areas, build relationships.
In New Zealand and Germany, what frequently happens when MLAs are elected to proportional island-wide seats, is that they will set up their offices in geographically-diverse areas, in order to be an active presence for their party in diverse communities, and make it more likely that that party will win 'district seats' in the next election.
For example, if we'd had MMP in the 2015 election, the NDP would have won 3 proportional seats. We can imagine, for example, that they may have set up offices in Montague (where Mike Redmond lives), in Charlottetown (where Gord MacNeilly had a strong showing), and in O'Leary (where Herb Dickieson has long had an NDP presence.
In New Zealand, there are term limits on proportional seats - an individual MLA can only be elected via the proportional seats twice, and after that, they may only run in a local district seat. So they have a strong incentive to build relationships grounded in a local community. We encourage this same rule to be included in the legislation when MMP is enacted on PEI.
With MMP, every voter, rural and urban, gets 2 votes - one to represent your geographic area, and one to represent your values.