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SUS transit levy referendum coming soon

SUS will be asking students whether they agree to a levy of up to $6 per student, per semester to support a private shuttle between UFV’s campuses in Chilliwack and Abbotsford.

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By Nick Ubels (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: October 17, 2012

SUS will be asking students whether they agree to a levy of up to $6 per student, per semester to support a private shuttle between UFV’s campuses in Chilliwack and Abbotsford.

Currently there is no public transit option between the two cities. This is a problem for much of UFV’s commuter student body.

The referendum question reads: “Do you support up to $6.00 per semester Chilliwack-to-Abbotsford transit fee to secure mass transit between Chilliwack and Abbotsford for our students [and] have this removed when a public option becomes available.”

The decision to put the question to referendum was reached at last Friday’s SUS board of directors meeting.

VP academic Dan van der Kroon read the motion and emphasized the importance of transportation between the two campuses.

“The provision of mass transit between these cities is essential for our students,” van der Kroon said. “The only feasible way to do it in the short term is a private option between Abbotsford and Chilliwack.”

However, van der Kroon expressed some reservations about putting this question to referendum. Only five per cent of UFV’s student body is required to answer a referendum question for it to be considered legitimate; van der Kroon explained he felt this percentage is not large enough to truly gauge the will of the student body.

The total cost per student of the proposed private shuttle is $10 per semester, but SUS is currently working with the university on creating a model funded by both student levy and contributions from UFV. The SUS board of directors is hoping to receive a commitment of up to 60 per cent of this cost from students so they can move forward with this plan as soon as possible.

Incoming interim president Shane Potter first expressed some concern about bringing the question to referendum before finalizing negotiations with the university, but retracted his earlier statements after representative-at-large Jay Mitchell indicated that the deadline for next semester’s fees is quickly coming up.

Waiting to approach students with this question would have also meant the referendum could fall during exam period, resulting in lower student voter turnout.

“I think we should go ahead and put this forward,” Potter concluded.

A date is yet to be set for the Chilliwack-Abbotsford connector poll, but it is unlikely the vote will be held in time to add the new fee to the winter 2013 semester if the referendum passes.

VP social Chris Doyle raised concerns over whether or not students would actually use the service if the referendum passed.

“Have we, in any way, checked how many students will actually be using this service?” Doyle asked. “I don’t want an empty bus running back and forth because we haven’t checked there are enough students.”

Potter addressed Doyle’s concerns by pointing to the petitions and letters SUS has received over the past five years.

“We have a public push for this,” Potter said.

Meeting chair and outgoing president Carlos Vidal suggested that referendum was the only way to determine whether the project has a student mandate.

“I think the only way to answer your question is to go to referendum,” he said.

The SUS board of directors adjourned before reaching motions to pose three additional referendum questions: two concerning the student union’s membership in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) federal advocacy group, and another that would ask students whether SUS levies should be tied to inflation.

A bylaw change made in this year’s SUS AGM allows the SUS board of directors to pose referendum questions to the student body with a two-thirds majority vote from the board of directors instead of the previously-required 75 per cent majority.

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