Jill Piebiak, an activist out of Toronto and leader of the “No Tax on Tampons” campaign, has gained over 50,000 supporters in her petition to end the GST on menstruation products. Her petition, on the online petition platform Change.org, is asking citizens to “let our elected officials know that you won’t stand for this unfair tax any longer.”
“No Tax on Tampons” is in support of MP Irene Mathyssen’s Bill C-282, which was introduced on Oct. 16, 2013.
In 2004, MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis attempted to pass a bill that would get rid of the GST on menstruation products by deeming them a human necessity through the Excise Tax Act. If what you buy includes tampons, pads, panty liners or menstrual cups you’ll find through looking at the bottom of your grocery bill that the bill was shot down and the GST remains.
Similar bills have been attempted by other female politicians, including Ontario MPP Marilyn Churley’s attempt in 2002 with a private members bill.
So why are certain things taxed while others aren’t?
“Low-income people spend two-thirds of their income on basic necessities. Wealthier people spend one-third of their income [on the same],” said Hasnat Dewan, chair of TRU’s economics department.
“Taxing on those basic necessities would be regressive. It would put more burden on the low-income people who spend more of their income on those goods,” Dewan said.
According to the petition, the government collected some $36 million in tax revenue on these products in 2014.
“From an individual woman’s perspective it’s probably not a large cost—a dollar, $2, $3 every month,” Dewan said. “But in aggregate it’s roughly $36 million, which is not a big amount for the government, when you look at the government’s total GST tax revenue which is around $30 billion.”
In other words, this $36 million collected annually, is 1/1000th of one per cent of federal tax revenue.
For Kathie Ross, an open learning faculty member and teaches accounting and tax at TRU, the tax currently attached on menstruation products makes no sense.
“Putting a tax on an item that affects a specific section of the population is, in effect, discriminatory,” Ross said.
Ross is a member of the TRU diversity committee and is currently completing her PhD. exploring gender issues in the accounting profession. She has watched many bills throughout the last two decades get rejected.
“It’s been tried in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009,” she said. “By the way, we are not the only ones fighting it, the U.K. still hasn’t got it through. They got it reduced, but it’s still not zero.”
The petition examines the fact that women have no alternatives to the products offered in grocery stores and pharmacies.
“Could you imagine showing up to work with a bag of rags?” Ross said, laughing. “It would not be acceptable in modern society. You have to have the products that are there.”
“I suspect it has more political implications than anything else. If one country does it, it might pressure another country to do it,” Dewan said.
“If you’re asking me if I think it will pass, the answer is no. I am pessimistic… because the U.K. still hasn’t been able to pass theirs,” Ross said. “The fact that B.C. doesn’t have PST on [these products] and a number of other provinces don’t, should be showing the federal government that citizens are paying attention that there shouldn’t be a tax on this.”
When someone signs the petition online, a letter is sent to six ministry representatives including the Minister of National Revenue, Minister responsible for the status of women and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“We can’t give up. If it doesn’t go forward this time we need to keep pushing it forward again,” Ross said. “It needs to continue to keep going forward as often as it takes.”