Free menstrual products to be available at city facilities in Cambridge

The City of Cambridge will become the latest municipality in Ontario to offer free menstrual products in public washrooms at city-run facilities.

The city supplies other hygiene products like toilet paper or soap: delegate

Delegates at the special budget meeting on Thursday argued that if the city supplies other hygiene items like toilet paper, soap and paper towels — why not menstrual products? (Mike Stewart/Associated Press)

The City of Cambridge will become the latest municipality in Ontario to offer free menstrual products in public  washrooms at city-run facilities starting early next year. 

All but one council member voted in favour of a motion presented by Coun. Donna Reid on Thursday. The decision will cost to taxpayers $0.27 per household.

This is the second time Reid has brought such a motion to council. In 2019, she said she was "frustrated" when council voted her first attempt down. Since then, a number of municipalities in Ontario including the City of Kitchener have passed motions or begun pilot projects to offer pads and tampons in city-run facilities and in public schools. 

At a special budget meeting Thursday, council heard from a number of delegates, including Vanessa Tonzik. Tonzik argued in support of the motion as youth action co-ordinator at the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank.

"These products are a necessity, not a luxury," said Tonzik. "We wouldn't dream of expecting visitors to come to city facilities to provide their own toilet paper, soap or paper towels when visiting a restroom. Surely menstrual products deserve the same consideration."

Ried said compared with the last time she presented this motion to council, it was clear from the number of delegates who came to speak that it's something the community wants.

"I think that the council felt very comfortable that this was something that should happen," said Reid in an interview with CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. "And I think that over two years people have learned a great deal about this and and learned from the experiences of other cities who have done it."

Kevin Hiebert, with the social enterprise group Changing The Flow, called the council's decision a good move forward.

The only councillor to vote against Reid's motion was Coun. Nicholas Ermeta, who took issue with accommodating people who need tampons and pads, over those who he said — for example — are on blood thinners, bleed easily and may need access to bandages. 

"I guess the struggle with me is that there are a number of different needs in the community," said Ermeta on Thursday. "So I would prefer a different approach rather than just providing a free product in every washroom."

The program will cost the City of Cambridge $18,400, to set up, and then $4,000 yearly for supplies. Staff has yet to determine if products will be distributed through a dispensary or a tray/basket service, said Reid.