In the House of Commons this morning, New Democrat MP Irene Mathyssen brought forward a motion to remove the goods and services tax from menstrual products.
The topic has been getting a lot of attention lately and it’s all thanks to a small group of women from Ontario and Quebec. In January, Jill Piebiak co-founded the #NoTaxOnTampons campaign, to raise awareness about what she and her colleagues believed was an unfair tax. Piebiak and her supporters also started a change.org petition in a bid to pressure the government into addressing the issue. Since then, the issue has exploded on social and mainstream media. In an opinion piece for The Globe and Mail, Andre Picard succinctly summed up the issue:
“If you buy an eight-pack of Pizza Pockets they will not be taxed. But if you buy a 10-pack of Tampax tampons, they will be. Which is a necessity and which is a luxury? Which one is a health product?”
Across the country, items considered ‘essentials’ are typically exempted from GST. So-called ‘zero-rated supplies’ include incontinence products, cocktail cherries, chocolate chips and wedding cakes. But not tampons, pads or menstrual cups, which women across the country must use several days each month for decades of their lives.
“They are something that you need to be productive and to live a public life,” says Piebiak.
“I think the fact that the government has not ever taken the time to discuss this issue is representative of how hard it is for women and trans communities to get issues that are politically relevant to them debated in the House of Commons. It’s symbolic of the systemic problems that exist in Canada.”
According to CanadianMenstruators.ca, nearly 18 million Canadian women between the ages of 12 and 49 spent nearly $520 million dollars on menstrual products in 2014 alone. That translated into almost $37 million in tax revenue for the federal government.
Time for a Change
The motion to remove the tax from menstrual products was debated in the House of Commons Friday morning and is said to have received bi-partisan support. “We have heard that the vote will be on Monday and the Conservative and Liberals support it,” Piebiak says.
— Dr. K. Kellie Leitch (@KellieLeitch) May 8, 2015
For Piebiak, her co-founders and supporters, victory is sweet.
“We are overjoyed that all political parties will support today’s motion calling to remove the tax on menstruation products. All who have supported this campaign helped make the voices of women and trans people heard in parliament, bringing our parties together to deliver justice and equity to Canadians who need it most. Canadian Menstruators are looking forward to seeing our next budget remove this unfair tax.”
The response on social media has, once again, been extensive.
— I’m Essential (@CDNMenstruators) May 8, 2015
— Katie Lutz (@KJ_Lutz) May 8, 2015
— Niki Ashton (@nikiashton) May 8, 2015