Ward 7 councillor Scott Hamilton is proposing free public transportation for city residents on election days.
Hamilton is hoping to motivate voters by eliminating a serious barrier, transportation to the polls, and will present a motion asking fellow councillors to support the idea next month.
“They might not have a car, they might not be physically able to make it to a polling station, so this will help those people get out and vote,” said Hamilton.
The voter turnout for elections at all levels is very low.
Hamilton thinks this is because people are less interested in democracy and are frustrated with the current political climate.
“They think politicians are only in it for their own good and they just feel discouraged from voting. So I think with a motion like this, it's to re-inspire faith in our democratic institutions,” said Hamilton.
Voting is essential for any democratic process to function properly. Hamilton is hoping this will help boost voter turnout and generate talk and excitement about getting involved in local politics.
Municipal elections are the most effective way to see change in your community, said Hamilton. He wants to use this as a tool to show voters that city councillor want to do everything they can to make sure the people's voices are heard.
Hamilton is in talks with Grand River Transit and the Region of Waterloo about hard numbers to see what this would cost, but sees it as a drop in the bucket compared to the gains they could make in restoring the public's faith in democracy.
There are many days GRT offers free transportation, like New Year's Eve and around the holidays, so Hamilton knows there is a precedent for this.
“If they’re going to have any day where transportation is free. It should be for this,” he said.
He wants to see the region be a pioneer and be one of the first places in Ontario to offer free public transportation for elections.
“Cambridge and Waterloo region could actually be leading a way to break down barriers to vote, right? I think that's pretty exciting,” Hamilton said.
City council will be voting on this motion on May 17, and Hamilton encourages people to delegate and get involved in the discussion.