University students lobby Halifax to make public transit free on election day
HALIFAX -- Millions of Canadians will be travelling to their local polling station on Monday, but should they have to pay to get there?
That's the question being asked by a group of Halifax university students, who are calling for the city to make public transit free on election day.
Nikki Jamieson says she's heard from classmates who rely on public transportation that it may affect their ability to vote.
"There's a lot of youth in this city that are going to be voting, and also a lot of marginalized communities that don't have access to adequate transportation," Jamieson said. "We know they already rely on Halifax Transit, and this is an additional stop in their day, and I think it's important that we provide that accommodation to them to make sure everyone has an opportunity to vote."
That's why Jamieson and other members of the Mount St. Vincent University Politics Society have launched a petition asking Halifax to wave transit fares on election Monday.
The society also sent letters to the mayor and councillors pitching the idea.
"I think it's a very admirable idea to have transportation available for people who want to get out to vote, be it municipal, provincial or federal elections," said Halifax Regional Coun. David Hendsbee. "The only problem is that this idea came to us too late in the process for us to even consider it."
Jamieson says she's already heard back from four councillors who support free transit, but the city's CAO Jacques Dube has already made his decision.
"It would cost about $55,000 in revenue that is not budgeted for, for Halifax Transit to offer that, and we just didn't see the cost versus benefit when we did the analysis," said Brendan Elliott, a Senior Communications Advisor with Halifax Regional Municipality.
But Jamieson points to several cities in Western Canada that have waived bus fares on election days.
"We've seen strong messaging come out of Red Deer and Lethbridge who offer this on all three levels of government, and 12 different places in B.C. as well, so I think that messaging speaks for itself," Jamieson said.
Jamieson says that even if it is too late for this year, she thinks the city should focus on making a strategy for future elections.
"If you look at those other municipalities, some have done it through different routes, some have done it through different times of day, and I do think moving forward it's something that should be strongly looked at," Jamieson said.
Elliott adds that residents can arrange with their local candidate to be driven to and from their voting station, and that residents also had the option to mail in their votes.
He does say that while the municipality won't be waiving fees this year, it's possible that could be re-evaluated in the future.