Councillor calls for free bus rides to polls for Winnipeggers on election day

By | October 10, 2019

Winnipeg city councillor Kevin Klein believes a free ride to the polls could boost turnout in the upcoming federal election.

The councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood wants Mayor Brian Bowman and his colleagues on city council to support a call to drop transit fares on Oct. 21, to make it easier for voters to get to the polls on election day.

“I’m asking that you and all of council act as one and eliminate at least one obstacle voters face on election day, transportation,” Klein wrote in a letter to Bowman and city councillors.

Klein got the idea from Ken St. George — a Charleswood resident who ran for city council in the ward in the last election.

“Whether I ran against this gentleman or not, he’s still my boss now and it’s not a bad idea to consider,” Klein said Thursday.

Winnipeg Transit carries over 168,000 passengers on an average weekday, bringing in about $145,000 in fares.

Klein says free bus rides would remove one obstacle to voting in the Oct. 21 federal election. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC )

Klein says getting voters to the polls and supporting democracy outweighs the loss of income for Winnipeg Transit.

“Respecting the financial implications, I believe funding for this gesture is an investment, not an expense. There is
room in our budget to support this year’s election,” Klein said in his plea to fellow councillors.

Bowman left a response to the idea to Coun. Matt Allard, the chair of the city’s infrastructure and public works committee.

But the St. Boniface councillor says Klein might have introduced the proposal sooner.

“This would have been a really good debate to have,” Allard said. 

“Unfortunately, I think I think the timing’s really tough to seriously consider this idea. However, if this is an idea that my council colleagues wanted to debate, getting some policy around this may have some merits.”

Winnipeg isn’t the only city where the idea has been floated. Edmonton and Windsor considered, but ultimately rejected, similar proposals.

Allard’s lukewarm reaction to the proposal included a shot at Klein’s record on another offer of free bus rides.

“There are a number of transit policies that we could explore and this is an idea. I know that Coun. Klein voted against free transit for veterans on Remembrance Day as part of the budget,” Allard said.

Klein snapped back, saying his idea was intended to boost democracy.

“This is this is simply providing an opportunity for Winnipeg residents to take a free ride to the polls,” Klein told reporters Thursday.