WATCH ABOVE: NDP MP Irene Mathyssen is urging the federal government to remove tax from feminine hygiene products.
OTTAWA – Being a woman in Canada can come with a cost: feminine hygiene products continue to be taxed, something the NDP hopes to change.
United in red, a group of female activists and two NDP MPs announced that on Friday the official opposition will urge the Conservatives to remove the GST federal tax on tampons, pads, menstrual cups, and panty liners.
An estimated $36 million is collected each year from the taxes on products only menstruating women have to purchase.
“Which in a 200-billion dollar budget is not significant. They can certainly consider the fact that this is a discriminatory tax,” said NDP MP Irene Mathyssen.
In 2011, Mathyssen introduced the private members bill C-282 to exempt feminine hygiene products from being taxed. The renewed effort comes after her office received over 10,000 written petitions and the activist group, Canadian Menstruators, presented another 72,000 online petitions protesting against the tax.
“No sales tax is charged on cocktail cherries, wedding cakes, incontinence products, and Viagra,” Jill Piebiak from Canadian Menstruators said.
Other products that are tax-exempt are basic groceries, including beer or wine-making kits, fondue chocolate, unpopped popcorn, and cookie dough.
“When the GST was introduced no one gave any thought that this was going to impact women, women who are struggling in terms of their poverty and their need. Young women who absolutely need this product if they’re going to go to school, go to work, and function within their communities,” Mathyssen said while standing outside parliament under the monument of Nellie McClung holding the newspaper with the headline “Women are Persons!”
WATCH: “Tampon Tax” debated in House of Commons
Harriett McLachlan of Canada Without Poverty was present for the announcement, and shared her own story about living in poverty and having to deal with paying for what she calls an essential product.
“Poor women make impossible choices between food and paying rent,” McLachlan said. Sometimes she couldn’t afford tampons so she said “I used to use my children’s old cloth diapers,” but it didn’t work very well.
What the government collects on taxing menstrual products “could be redirected towards supporting families just by eliminating the tax,” she said.
There are similar campaigns currently in Australia and the United Kingdom. The official opposition and the Conservative government will debate over the issue on Friday.