By Mariah Wilson, October 15 2019—
It is widely recognized that voting is a human right and, by extension, so should access to transportation to and from the polling station be a right. This is essential in ensuring that every eligible Canadian faces no barriers when accessing the polls to cast their ballot and contribute to the future of Canada. With such a diverse country, every voice is valid and needs a chance to be heard.
There is no better time to vote than now. With issues as heavily-weighted as climate change, health coverage, post-secondary education and affordability, it’s critical that every Canadian gets a chance to vote for a candidate they deem suitable to tackle these challenges.
Even though Canadians witnessed a voter turnout of 68.5 per cent in our last federal election — the highest turnout since 1993 — that number can, and should, be higher. In 2017, both South Korea and New Zealand managed to achieve voter turnout that was above 75 per cent. Even though both of these nations are geographically smaller than Canada — South Korea has a population that’s one and a half times as large as Canada’s — to mobilize that many people requires a national interest in political issues, and more importantly, civic life.
One on best ways to showcase civic life and the importance of having affordable access to transportation is through offering free transit. Giving everyone the opportunity to use public transit, without financial constraint, can reinvigorate people’s interest with public services. Riding public transit also opens your eyes to the socioeconomic diversity in your community in a way that driving your car can’t. You’ll soon find that taking transit isn’t as “gross” or “scary” as it’s made to sound, but instead can be quite enjoyable as you read a book, watch some Netflix or observe the urban environment as it whooshes by.
While it may not be possible this year, I think this is something that the City of Calgary — along with other Canadian cities — can look into offering for future election days. B.C. Transit, which operates in 130 communities throughout British Columbia outside of Greater Vancouver, is already leading the pack by offering free public transit on election day this year.
Based off of the data released by the City of Calgary for the Transit Funding and Fare Strategy Review in February 2014, it would cost the city $175,945.21 to offer free transit for the day. That may seem like an astronomical number, but when you divide it by Calgary’s population it works out to be $0.13 per person. For less than a dollar per person, citizens can have stress-free transport to and from their polling station, meet others from their community and see Calgary from a new perspective — not a bad trade-off.
Public services, like transit, are integral to have a well-functioning and accessible society. Citizens have places to go and public transit offers an almost barrier-free way for everyone to get around the city. As the federal government begins to invest in Calgary’s new LRT green line, it’s a critical time for Calgarians to understand the importance this line poses for future generations of transit-riders and to start caring about the diverse needs of others in our community.