An Andrew Furey government would stock school bathrooms with pads and tampons as part of a broader health curriculum overhaul, the Liberal leader said Wednesday, calling lack of access to menstrual products a barrier to education.
Furey hung his argument on two online reports saying one in seven Canadian girls have missed school because they couldn't access menstrual products, according to his campaign office.
That data appears to come from a 2018 survey paid for by pad manufacturer Always. The campaign office could not provide the survey, but Furey cited the statistic in a scrum with reporters on Wednesday.
"That's an unacceptable barrier for reaching your full potential in today's society," Furey said.
A release from his campaign team frames Furey's pledge as part of a wider plan to improve school health curricula. The release says a Furey government would revise how students learn about sexual and mental health, relationships and substance use.
In the brief scrum Wednesday, Furey did not offer details about what those adjustments would entail, but touched on how his government would fund the menstrual products program, telling reporters the money would be "found within the health-care system."
"The cost of not having them, and young women and young non-binary individuals missing school, is far greater than the cost incurred to the system for this," he said.
Toronto's largest school board implemented the same policy in 2019, providing tampons and pads at no cost to taxpayers through a charity called Physical Health and Education Canada.
A release from Furey's campaign office said his government, if elected, would "partner with suppliers" in addition to finding funds within the current budget.
"This is an essential product, and it should not be a systemic barrier in school or out of school, frankly," Furey said.
Free tampons for all?
Nikki Baldwin, executive director of Planned Parenthood in Newfoundland and Labrador, applauded the move, but said any elected government should take the policy a step further.
"Period products are so expensive, and they're a necessity," Baldwin said. "They should be thought of like toilet paper."
Baldwin said tampons and pads should be freely available in all public bathrooms, but supplying them to schools first could prevent minors from missing out on class or activities.
She told CBC she's heard of teachers supplying students with tampons from their own purses. "That's not a sustainable option," she said.
PC Leader Ches Crosbie said he's in favour of the plan.
"I'm quite capable of accepting a good idea from anybody, including Premier Furey, so it sounds out of the gate like it has sense to it," Crosbie said at a press conference Wednesday.
"It's something I can probably support."
Crosbie also said the improvements to health curricula outlined in Furey's platform are "the sorts of things that should be encouraged."