Greater Victoria students lost a bid to upgrade their advocacy position on the Victoria Regional Transit Commission to one with decision-making power.
During its Feb. 23 meeting, the VRTC rejected a motion that would send a letter to the Minister of Transportation, requesting that the B.C. Transit Act be amended to give students a voting seat.
The University of Victoria and Camosun College student societies currently share a rotating non-voting seat.
Allocating a voting seat to the student societies would make them the only seat not held by a local elected official — a point several current members took issue with during the meeting.
Susan Brice, VRTC chair, said she’s struggled with the issue as she’s “mindful and respectful” of the working relationship the commission has with the students.
“The core thing to me is the awesome responsibility that elected people have to set taxation, that is something that is fundamental, it’s core to our way of governance,” the Saanich councillor said.
“Because there is such a very high level of responsibility, there must be a linkage, in my view, to having elected people who are accountable to the taxpayers at large be the ones who make those fundamental decisions around funding in particular, so I can’t find myself able to support the motion.”
Quinn Cunningham, a CCSS board member, responded by saying students “feel the impacts of all sorts of taxation that is implemented” as homeowners and renters.
“We are members of the community and we are accountable to our community and your communities as well, in such a position where we had a voting seat, we would take that responsibility very seriously,” he said.
He added that students come from every corner of Greater Victoria, so they focus on ridership concerns from across the region.
Emily Lowan, UVSS director of community relations, said giving riders a meaningful say would create a more effective transit system and a non-voting seat is not enough, nor is it real “inclusion and participation.”
“Most of the transit commissioners aren’t personally affected by the decisions made at the VRTC — they aren’t the ones who are left waiting at a bus stop when service hours are reduced, they aren’t the ones feeling claustrophobic on an overcrowded bus and they aren’t the ones left stranded late at night after work,” she said in an email to Black Press Media.
During the meeting, VRTC did unanimously pass a motion directing staff to bring options forward on creating an educational advisory committee that would include student representatives from across the region.