An Edmonton city councillor is proposing free public transit throughout the city on Oct. 21 as a means of encouraging people to get out and vote.
Ward 4 Coun. Aaron Paquette says the cost of a transit ticket — currently $3.50 for a regular adult cash fare — can keep some people from getting to the polls.
"Believe it or not, $3.50 for a transit fare, $7 if they're going there and back ... that's their groceries for the week," he said.
Paquette is seeking to find out what his free transit plan would cost the city, but is optimistic it's an affordable exception.
"I've got a feeling that this is not going to be an onerous amount," he said. "We'll find out."
Those who work with vulnerable and low-income people agree, saying saving even a few dollars can give them an incentive to cast their ballot.
"For a lot of the people that we serve transit and access to transit is a barrier," said Elliott Tanti with Boyle Street Community Services.
"All we want is for people to participate in the democratic process."
Not all councillors are convinced, however, citing concerns over the plan's cost and effectiveness.
"I'm concerned we're going to end up giving up a whole bunch of cash to help ... people like me have a free day of riding transit when I can totally afford it," said Ward 5 Coun. Sarah Hamilton.
Regardless of the plan's fate there will be some free transit options for voters come election day.
Most parties will offer a handful of drivers on election day to shuttle voters to the polling station, but Paquette fears marginalized persons will still be overlooked.
"Does everyone understand how to contact those people?" he said. "Do they understand how to arrange those kind of things? You could say, probably not."
City staff will provide a cost estimate for Paquette's plan before it returns to council on Tuesday.
With files from Jeremy Thompson