NDP to use opposition day to push for tax free tampons

Mylène Freeman is pictured outside the Famous Five monument on Parliament Hillto raise awareness of the NDP's new motion. Photo courtesy of Freeman's Facebook page. (Mylène Freeman)

A crazy week in politics will be bookended by another somewhat unusual event: MPs talking about periods in the House of Commons.

The NDP is using its opposition day motion on Friday to talk about taxes on tampons, in an effort to get the GST removed from all feminine hygiene products sold in Canada.

They’re urging the federal government to remove what they call an “unfair tax on women.”

On Thursday morning, MPs Irene Mathyssen and Mylène Freeman, with a backdrop of a handful of supporters dressed in red, held a small rally in front of the Famous Five monument on Parliament Hill to raise awareness about the party’s motion.

“It’s very, very clear that when the GST was introduced, no one gave any thought to the fact that this was going to impact women, all women,” Mathyssen said.

She noted that this tax — which targets one sex for products that are essential, not luxury — is particularly burdensome for women struggling in poverty.

The No Tax on Tampons campaign spearheaded by the group Canadian Menstruators has over 72,000 supporters online and calls on National Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay to amend the Excise Tax Act, removing the 5 per cent GST on tampons, pads, moon/diva cups and panty liners. The campaign mirrors similar ones in the U.K. and Australia.

“Though GST has decreased from 7% to 5% across the board, people with periods are still unfairly paying into the system,” the group’s website states.

“In 2014, it’s estimated that approximately 17,876,392 Canadian women between the ages of 12–49 spent about $519,976,963.00 on menstrual hygiene products.”

Back in 2011 Mathyssen introduced a private member’s bill that would have amended the Excise Tax Act and allow for feminine hygiene products to be exempt from taxation.

The Canadian Menstruators website noted that private member’s bills like Mathyssen’s rarely become law, “however, any bill may be brought to second reading if it is the government’s will. Let’s show the Conservative Government what we stand for and demand this bill be passed. “

On Thursday Mathyssen said taxes on menstrual products cost women more than $36 million every year.

“It makes no sense whatsoever that women have to pay tax on tampons while non-essential items like wedding cakes and cocktail cherries are exempt,” she said.