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Call for free transit on election day shot down by HRM's CAO says MSVU Politics Society

Nikki Jamieson believes HRM should be doing everything in its power to reduce barriers and encourage encourage voter participation
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A Halifax Transit bus (Meghan Groff/HalifaxToday.ca)

An online petition is calling for free transit in the Halifax Regional Municipality on election day.

The change.org campaign says the municipality should do everything in its power to encourage voter participation.

Nikki Jamieson with the Mount Saint Vincent University Politics Society is behind push and tells NEWS 95.7's The Rick Howe Show, for some residents of HRM, transit is the only way to get to their polling stations.

"I think it's important we're drawing attention to that and holding people accountable to make sure that the service is provided," she said.

Jamieson's group sent letters to the mayor and councillors pitching the idea. She's heard back from four Halifax councillors who support free transit on Monday, but said CAO Jacques Dube has the sole authority to approve the proposal and a reply from his office shot down the idea.

"They've refused based on the fact, they quoted saying they're not aware of any information that would demonstrate a correlation between free transit and voter turnout," Jamieson said.

However, several other jurisdictions across the country appear to disagree, including 13 local governments on the West Coast who are partnering with B.C Transit to be fare-free on election day.

"The free transit will help make it easier for residents to get to the polls and cast their ballots," said B.C. Transit in a news release.

The bus is also free in Red Deer, Alberta, where Transit Manager George Penny said the move will make it easier for voters to cast ballots.

"If we can eliminate one of the barriers that might keep someone from being able to vote, we want to do that," he stated in a news release posted to the City of Red Deer website.

If other jurisdictions see the value in offering free transit to voters, Jamieson doesn't understand why Halifax doesn't.

"I think it's important we're not just accepting a hard no here, I think there are alternatives if you look across the country," she said. "There's many cities doing things from offering it from selected hours, selected routes, offering tickets at certain locations."

"To say no there isn't a connection when others are saying there's a connection, and not looking into how we can facilitate this when other transit directors and mayors are saying that we could, is kind of unacceptable in my opinion."

The MSVU Politics Society has sent a second letter to Dube's office, hoping the idea will be reconsidered.




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Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana & lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the community editor for HalifaxToday.ca.
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