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This article was published 31/10/2014 (2543 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Students at the University of Manitoba have voted 53 per cent in favour of the U-Pass, the special Winnipeg Transit pass system that would give university students an 8-month pass at a special rate of $260 that would be added to their annual fees.
With U of M students' votes tabulated Friday night, they join the University of Winnipeg students who earlier this week voted 82 per cent in favour of the U-Pass.
Christian Pierce, vice-president external at the University of Manitoba Students' Union, said it was a tight margin at the U of M but a majority was all that was needed.
"It was quite close but it proved successful and we're excited. We're just happy that a lot of people came out and voted," Pierce said, noting 19.5 percent of U of M students voted.
"We actually had a pretty high turnout for the average election turnout. When I first got involved in student politics, in my first election we had 23.5 per cent and that was one of the highest ever in U of M's history so 19.5 is actually quite high for student referendum and elections."
The proposal has been controversial because the pass will be mandatory for all students, including those who don't take the bus, with the cost added to students' fees.
Students on both campuses were asked in separate referendums this week if they would agree to pay an additional $260 in their annual student fees for a two-semester (eight-month) transit pass.
Rorie McLeod-Arnould, president of the U of W student association, said final numbers he received Friday night showed a landmark 14 per cent voter turnout.
"That represents the highest voter turnout in a by-election in our recorded history," McLeod-Arnould said, noting records go back to 2002. "It's the highest voter turnout we've had in the past decade."
Many of the 10,000 students at the U of W already take the bus because of the university's downtown location and limited parking.
At the U of M's Fort Garry campus, located in the south end of the city, a smaller percentage of the 20,000 undergraduate students take the bus.
"We're thrilled that we had such overwhelming support at the University of Winnipeg but I'm also aware that's a very slim margin at the University of Manitoba," McLeod-Arnould said. "There's a lot of hard work to be done on behalf of student unions here in Winnipeg, city council and Winnipeg Transit to earn their trust and their support moving forward and we plan to do just that."
Student leaders at both campuses had lobbied Winnipeg city council extensively for the pass. The student pass didn't get enough support for inclusion in the 2014 budget, but a proposal pushed by Mayor Sam Katz and Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) was supported by council in February.
Council approved the plan in principal if the referendums at both campuses get a majority support.
The transit pass would only be available to students at the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba.
The U-Pass, as it's known, is expected to require a $1-million annual subsidy, but half of that cost will be covered by the provincial government.
University-student monthly transit passes now cost $67.75, a total of $542 for eight months.
It is estimated that the pass would become available in September 2016 since an implementation process will have to take place in cooperation with the new mayor, councillors and Winnipeg Transit.
--with files from Aldo Santin