Say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to U-Pass

Last two days to register sides for U-Pass campaign

Photo by Carolyne Kroeker. Participate in the U-Pass forum on Thursday, Oct. 23 in the MPR, second floor University Centre at noon hosted by the Manitoban, UMSU, and GSA.

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University students are urgently invited to participate in the democratic electoral process by registering sides, campaigning, and voting for or against the universal bus pass (U-Pass), which permits access to more affordable public transportation available to post-secondary students across the city.

For the second time since November 2012, University of Manitoba students are being encouraged to register for and participate in one of the U-Pass “Yes-side” or “No-side” campaigns to inform fellow students about the varying positions. Following the campaigning period, students will be able to vote—for or against the U-Pass—from Oct. 29-31.

Due to new cost increases associated with the U-Pass since the first referendum, post-secondary students from the University of Manitoba Students’ Union, the U of M Graduate Students’ Association, and the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association will hold this second referendum to determine whether students are still on board with the U-Pass.

Two executive terms ago, 74 per cent of U of M students voted in favour of the U-Pass. The overwhelming support at the first U-Pass referendum reflected the highest UMSU voter turnout in over 15 years.

Due to the result of the first referendum, UMSU was given a mandate to negotiate for a pass at a rate of $85 or less per semester.

Based on the process of negotiations between UMSU, UWSA, the City of Winnipeg and Winnipeg Transit, the executives were unable make the original intended rate to fulfill this mandate. The price has now been pegged at a rate of $260 per student per academic year.

However, these changes were “statistically justified,” according to Zach Fleisher, Canadian Federation of Students-Manitoba chairperson. Near the beginning of September, Fleisher told the Manitoban the new price is comparable to what other university students pay, such as in Edmonton ($245.84), Calgary ($234), and at Simon Fraser University ($304).

The U-Pass has already been implemented in various Canadian cities, with at least 30 universities and colleges across the country participating in a U-Pass program.

The newly proposed cost is somewhat comparable to others across the country and considerably cheaper than present rates for Winnipeg university students. Monthly student bus passes currently cost $67.75, which totals $542 over the academic year. With the U-Pass, students would pay $260 over the course of the school year, which equals $32.50 per month. This means a total savings of $282.

According to the UMSU website, “UMSU is currently lobbying the City of Winnipeg, the government of Manitoba, and the University of Manitoba to invest in the U-PASS to ensure that the cost to students is within the amount established by the U-PASS referendum.”

Referendum question posed by UMSU

“Are you in favour of a mandatory universal bus pass (or U-Pass) that would: provide unlimited access to Winnipeg Transit services for students for the months of September to April inclusive; cost $260 per student to be adjusted on a yearly basis according to inflation; and have exemptions as determined by the City of Winnipeg and Winnipeg Transit for students living outside the City of Winnipeg and for students with special accessibility needs?”

The U-Pass will be made available to all students registered in at least 6 credit hours.

“For the most part [ . . . ] In order to keep costs down, the U-Pass is required to be mandatory for all students.

“Opt-outs would only be available for students living outside of Winnipeg’s city limits. Other opt-outs, such as for students with a disability, may be available depending on further negotiations with Winnipeg Transit.

“Proof of residency outside the City would be required. The exact process (such as when and where you can opt-out) is still to be discussed with the University of Manitoba administration, although it would likely follow a similar process as UMSU’s Health & Dental Plan.”

Registering sides

Any UMSU member—any undergraduate who has paid fees according to their university tuition statement—may register one of two campaign sides, depending on their position for or against the U-Pass. Students may register or join a campaign for the “Yes-side” or “No-side.” In accordance to UMSU bylaw 1021, a side must: present registration forms to the CRO; have an organized committee of UMSU members that supports their position; provide the registered first and last names, signatures, faculties, years, and student identification numbers of members; provide the same information for at least 50 nominators who are members of the union (which can include members of the Side Committee); maintain an updated list of side committee members; as well as authorize a representative to represent the side to the CRO and a treasurer to handle finances.

“A side committee cannot restrict membership to the committee from any member of the union provided they have joined the side and support the position of the side honestly and in good faith,” reads the same section of UMSU bylaw 1021.

“Members of the Executive and Council and candidates for executive and community representative may participate as members on a Side Committee, provided they meet all other criteria required of any other person sitting on the committee.”

The bylaw continues, “any member of the union wishing to join a side may register with the CRO following the specified deadlines. The CRO shall forward the name and phone number of the member to the appropriate authorized representative.”

Registration forms can be found at the UMSU Front Desk, 101 University Centre. All students can get more informed about the upcoming U-Pass referendum vote by visiting umsu.ca; contacting the CRO at cro@umsu.ca; campaigning for either side; or by participating in the U-Pass forum on Thursday, Oct. 23 at noon hosted by the Manitoban, UMSU, and GSA.

Edited on Oct. 22