The city is looking at options to provide free pads and tampons in washrooms at civic facilities as soon as the spring.
Coun. Don Bonner made the motion at Monday’s council meeting, asking staff to report on potential costs and options. He noted that the City of Nanaimo already supplies menstrual products free upon request at civic facilities.
Bonner wondered why his resolution was necessary and why the city wasn’t already providing the products in washrooms.
“I think this is timely and I think it’s important. These particular products are basic necessities that are required,” he said. “We provide toilet paper and also hand-washing products and paper towels and there shouldn’t be any reason why we’re not providing these.”
Coun. Zeni Maartman spoke in favour of the motion, suggesting more discreet distribution would offer “some dignity for women and for men,” and Coun. Erin Hemmens also supported the motion, saying, “God love you, Don.”
Hemmens said she doesn’t think menstrual products will be a high-cost item and Bonner said his research suggests it could be done for $25-30,000. Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools staff reported a year ago that 140 dispensers were expected to cost $100,000 the first year and $60,000 in subsequent years.
Richard Harding, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said the staff report would include options for council to choose the scope of the program.
Hemmens said there may be lower-cost options for the city to consider, such as leaving out baskets on counters in some locations.
Mayor Leonard Krog expressed reservations about potential costs.
“We’re talking about spending money on something which has never once been raised to me in 18 years in the B.C. legislature and two years as mayor by anyone as something we should be providing free in public facilities,” Krog said. “I just have to say, this is not, with great respect, a pressing matter.”
Coun. Ian Thorpe suggested that the options provided in the staff report shouldn’t commit the city to any particular decision on the subject yet.
“I would prefer a report that says, could we, should we, what’s it going to cost, how would it work,” he said.