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Decision on menstrual pilot project deferred as staff to look at stocking all facilities in the HRM

Public library branches in Halifax are moving to provide free menstrual products in washrooms, as the city considers a motion to provide them free in all municipally owned facilities.
Public library branches in Halifax are moving to provide free menstrual products in washrooms, as the city considers a motion to provide them free in all municipally owned facilities. The Canadian Press/AP, Mike Stewart

Halifax Regional Council has deferred a pilot project that would see free menstrual products be offered in some of the municipality’s facilities until staff can look at the cost of rolling out the program across Halifax.

Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to hold off on implementing a staff recommendation that would have kicked off a pilot project at 16 facilities operated by Halifax Regional Municipality.

For the councillor who proposed the project in May, though, the staff recommendation did not go far enough.

READ MORE: Halifax looks at making menstrual products free at municipal facilities

Coun. Lorelei Nicoll, of Cole Harbour-Westphal, was disappointed that the staff proposal would only see tampon dispensers installed in 16 of the municipality’s facilities.

She told council that her original request had been for staff to look at permanently stocking menstrual products in all HRM-operated facilities and the 26 community operated facilities that include pools, arenas and multi-district facilities.

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“There is no explanation as to why the 16 and why the need to install or replace the dispensers in all washrooms,” Nicoll said.

“It is a basic need, much like toilet paper.”

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The projected cost for a one-year pilot program at 16 of the municipal facilities was $271,973.

Halifax Public Libraries offering free menstrual products
Halifax Public Libraries offering free menstrual products

HRM’s chief administrative officer, meanwhile, disagreed that he had not done what councillors had asked for.

Jacques Dubé told council that a pilot project is supposed to use a small sample to see if it will work on a larger scale.

“[With all due respect] I believe we’ve actually fulfilled the intent of the motion as originally stated,” he said.

A few of the councillors also disagreed with the staff recommendation that dispensers would need to be installed in municipal facilities as part of the project.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia’s Period Poverty Summit highlights ongoing accessibility issues

Many pointed to the model implemented by Halifax Public Libraries, which did not install dispensers when they began providing free menstrual products in their washrooms.

“We’re making this more complicated than it needs to be,” said Coun. Lisa Blackburn, of Middle/Upper Sackville–Beaver Bank–Lucasville.

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As a result of the deferral, councillors will wait until HRM staff complete a report about permanently stocking washrooms at all of the municipalities facilities — and where the funding to do so will come from.