Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the motion moved by my colleague from London—Fanshawe and to ask the Conservatives to eliminate an unfair tax.
It is unfair for women to pay tax on goods as essential as feminine hygiene products. Menstruation products are not a luxury for women and girls. This discrimination costs women more than $36 million per year. It makes no sense to ask women to pay tax on tampons when there are exemptions for non-essential goods, such as wedding cakes and cocktail cherries.
I am proud to be part of a caucus that fights for gender equality and stands up for women by asking the government to eliminate the federal sales tax on feminine hygiene products and make taxes fair for both genders.
Every year, under the Excise Tax Act, the federal government collects millions of dollars in taxes on these products. Products considered essential to daily life are exempt from the tax, but luxury products are not.
According to activists with Canadian Menstruators, an organization that has gathered over 72,000 signatures on an online petition on the matter, Canadians agree that taxing these products places an added burden on Canadian households and discriminates against women who menstruate, a group of people who face a disproportionate financial burden.
In 2011, the member for London—Fanshawe introduced Bill C-282 to remove the excise tax on feminine hygiene products. A similar bill had already been introduced by the NDP in a previous Parliament.
Last fall, when talking about how unfair this tax is, a group of young women learned about the bill's existence. They organized the Canadian Menstruators campaign and started an online petition, which over 72,000 Canadians have signed. Furthermore, the paper version of the petition that we presented in the House has gathered over 10,000 signatures so far.
Managing taxation is one of the most important aspects of governance.
Basic grocery products are exempt from the GST. According to the CRA website:
...the CRA considers a product to be a food or beverage if an average consumer would recognize and purchase the product as such in the ordinary course of buying basic groceries.
We are talking about basic necessities.
As anyone who uses them or buys consumer products for or with someone who uses them will say, the products that menstruators need are basic. Tampons and pads are not luxury items that are taxable through GST. No one comes home after a rough day of work and says, “I'm going to go buy myself a box of tampons and relax”. It is not ice cream. It is not cake. It is not wine or chocolate or perfume or nail polish or Viagra. It is a necessity. Necessities identified by the CRA as zero-exempt are foods, such as fresh, frozen, and canned foods, and products like medical oxygen, dispensing services fees, artificial limbs, eyes, and teeth, catheters, glasses, contacts, hearing aids, canes, crutches, stockings, and apparently, human sperm, which is on my list.
We are talking about reproductive health, right? Reproductive health is part of a menstruator's normal healthy course of life, and this measure should be seen as part of a holistic conversation about our reproductive health and lives. It should be seen as something that is basic in a menstruator's course of life and therefore should be exempt.
Gender inequality is reaching new heights in Canada; it is increasing rather than diminishing. That is unacceptable. We need a government that can combat inequality, not one that perpetuates and increases it. Inequality is growing between Canadian men and women.
Instead of tackling the problem, the government is adopting disgraceful measures that ultimately increase inequality. That is why we need to take fundamental action to address inequality. Gender inequality means that women do not have the economic security they deserve, and that fits right into the current agenda.
Women make up 59% of minimum-wage workers. Even working full time, women in these jobs do not have enough money to meet all their family's needs. Women who work full time earn an average of 23% less than men; 20 years ago they earned 28% less.
At that rate, it will take 95 years before we achieve parity. The government should endeavour to reduce discrimination and inequality. If we eliminated the wage gap, growth in our gross domestic product would increase by up to 10%.
In the meantime, Canada is far from achieving pay equity. The wage gap in Canada is the eighth largest among the OECD countries. More than ever in Canada, women are becoming educated and pursuing careers, but they still are not earning the same as men for the same work. For every dollar earned by a man with a post-secondary education, his female colleague with the same education will receive only 82¢ in the public sector and 77¢ in the private sector. This gap is even wider when it comes to aboriginal women and women from visible minorities.
The progress made over the generations by women who fought for pay equity cannot be attributed to the generosity of employers. In fact, employers often do not know that there is a problem. Even 44 years after the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, which recommended a national child care program that would help women enter the workforce, there is still a shortage of child care spaces in Canada.
That is why we are proposing very broad measures to address this problem, including the one we are debating today. The NDP has proposed a national child care program that would charge a maximum of $15 a day. Experts agree that this type of measure will truly result in pay equity. A discussion of any major issue such as pay equity, the creation of day care spaces or the fight against poverty must include gender-based analysis. We also suggest that the federal tax be removed from very basic products such as feminine hygiene products. We are asking the House to consider anything related to women's reproductive lives as a basic commodity and not a luxury. We must eliminate the federal tax on feminine hygiene products.
I would like to take these last few seconds to congratulate my colleague from London—Fanshawe for all her work on this issue. I congratulate her for introducing this bill and this opposition motion today so that we can talk about women's normal sexual and reproductive life in the House of Commons. I also want to thank all the women who campaigned to put this issue back on the table and who have proven that by mobilizing people we can get results in the House. We are talking about this issue thanks to those women. I congratulate them for all their work.