The cost of voting municipally if you’re on ODSP
I planned to cast my vote last weekend at city hall, but I was sick. Even now, I’m still feeling rough.
For me, Ottawa City Hall is an ideal location. Not only is it near me, but city hall also has wheelchair accessible bathrooms, a small art gallery, and space to move around both inside and outside. Also, if it’s not too cold out, I can either hang out at Confederation Park or the Rideau Centre.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing both of those things, but let’s be honest, Summer’s over. If I recall correctly, parts of last weekend were cold and rainy. In those conditions, I’d need to book Para Transpo instead of just rolling to city hall.
As many of you know by now, Para Transpo is a gamble. One day, they show up on time and take you directly to your destination. The next day, or even your trip home, can be very different. Instead of showing up on time, they’re twenty to thirty minutes late, and the driver needs to drop off or pick up other passengers.
Needless to say, a ten-minute or less trip to city hall could become a thirty-minute adventure just to get to the polling station. In most cases, it only takes a few minutes to vote. If I need to rely on Para Transpo, I’m basically stuck at the polling station for at least an hour.
When Para Transpo drops you off, the driver leaves immediately and heads to the next call. No waiting around, at least not for you.
Using city hall as an example, after I cast my ballot, I would have a long time to wait, so I would check out the small art gallery, which typically takes me about five or ten minutes.
As for the remaining forty-five minutes until my ride (hopefully) shows, I’d probably roll around wandering about ten to twenty times and hopefully see people I know and chat with.
When it comes to voting, and you’re a PWD, there are many obstacles that we have to navigate.
Besides this long, drawn-out process of booking Para Transpo and needing to wait around, there’s a financial aspect.
I decided not to reload my Presto pass for the month of October. The main reason is that I typically go out less in October due to cooler temperatures, and I’m also trying to save what little money I have.
I'll quickly break it down for those wondering how much I’m saving.
When I buy a bus pass, I get a Community Pass, which is $43.25 per month. Since I’m over thirteen but not a senior, each trip in October will cost me $3.75 cash. To justify spending $43.25 for a bus pass, I would need to take eleven trips in thirty days.
If I was going to school, not working from home, had multiple appointments or social events etc., the total number of trips would be more than eleven.
Here’s the problem, though. To be honest, there are at least two problems with this scenario.
1. Para Transpo drivers only accept exact change. Unless I have a bag full of coins, each time I take Para Transpo in October, I will need to ask a neighbour if they have exactly $3.75 x two, or $7.50. If they don’t, I need to hope that Mother Nature’s being nice and it’s warm and dry enough for me to roll to the bank, which is ten minutes away.
During the winter months, it becomes MUCH more difficult.
2. Like many PWD in Ottawa, I’m on ODSP, which means having to pay $43.25 a month is often challenging. Not being to afford necessary travel to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and possible sudden medical issues is very stressful. Also, many want to vote, and we all have the right to vote.
Recently, I stumbled upon a petition organized by Horizon Ottawa. Like me, they believe that all public transportation, including Para Transpo, should be free for those wanting to vote but may not be able to afford $7.50 for the round trip.
I’ve already signed it, and you can as well by going to https://www.horizonottawa.ca/petition_free_transit_election_day
Along with free transit for voters, I’d love to have Para Transpo be able to pick us up right after we vote. Why should PWD be forced to wait an hour to return home? It makes absolutely no sense and deters many PWD from voting.
Just for the record, I want to empathize that PWD aren’t looking for special treatment or handouts. For the most part, we just want to be able to do what we need to do without having to jump through hoops. We understand that life, in general, is often quite challenging. I think we can universally agree on that.
However, when it comes to simple tasks (for some) such as voting, we need to remove as many barriers as possible.
After all, we’re just trying to do what we gotta do.