Manitoba

Free tampons and pads for students in Manitoba: NDP election promise

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew says he wants to undo the harm that the current government's cuts to health care have done to women.

NDP promise to hire more midwives, but Tories point out party previously spent millions and only graduated 8

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew and Wolseley candidate Lisa Naylor speak at a campaign event at Scout Coffee and Tea on Portage Avenue on Thursday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC )

Flanked by mothers and other women at a campaign event, Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew promised Thursday to provide menstrual products in all schools for free if New Democrats are voted into power next month.

"A strong health-care system also means investing in young women and girls," said NDP candidate for Wolseley Lisa Naylor, who was at the announcement and cited a statistic that one in seven Canadian girls have missed school because of their period.

The NDP's promise to put tampons and pads in all K-12 schools but wouldn't extend to universities. Kinew also promised to hire six more midwives in Manitoba during his first year in office.

"That will create good jobs for those midwives here in the province but importantly, it will help to meet the needs of new moms and expecting moms here in the province," he said.

Manitoba has been short midwives for many years including when the NDP was in power before the Tories were elected in 2016. Midwives are autonomous health-care providers who provide care to women and infants through to six weeks postpartum.

They can provide prenatal and birthing care. This year in Manitoba, there are 56 practising midwives employed and working, and another 23 are not currently practising, according to College of Midwives of Manitoba executive director Patty Eadie.
Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew with baby Nathan Mullins following an announcement at Scout Coffee and Tea on Portage Avenue on Thursday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Naylor said the NDP would also restore lactation consultant programs at Winnipeg hospitals, which she said the Pallister government cut, and would invest $300,000 to hire three new lactation consultants for labour and delivery wards.

"It may seem like a small budget item, but it's going to make a big difference in the lives of Manitoba women and their families."

The promises Thursday would cost the province $1.2 million annually, Kinew said, with $800,000 going toward midwives, $300,000 for lactation consultants and $82,000 for menstrual products. Kinew said Manitoba continues to lose midwives due to a lack of available work for the trained professionals in the province.

Anna Bshouty is expecting a baby girl on November 6th but isn’t sure if her midwife, who works with a doctor on call, will be there for the baby’s arrival due but hopes to have one when she has a second child. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Anna Bshouty is expecting a baby girl on Nov. 6 but isn't sure if her midwife, who works with a doctor on call, will be there for the baby's arrival, but she hopes to have a midwife present when she has a second child.

"I would like really to give birth with the most experienced person possible," she said, at Scout Coffee and Tea on Portage Avenue where Kinew held his announcement. Bshouty said she is not an NDP member and came to the announcement after hearing about it through a friend.

Tories say NDP underestimating cost 

The Progressive Conservatives said Kinew's pledge to pay for hygiene products would cost "nearly quadruple" the price given by the NDP.

The Tories said the NDP repeatedly "bungled" the midwifery program in Manitoba while in government and pointed out they spent $8 million while only eight students graduated in eight years.

"Unlike the NDP, which routinely breaks the promises it makes to voters during an election, the PC Party can be relied upon to keep its word. We have launched a number of health initiatives that help women of all ages since taking office and look forward to discussing new initiatives with Manitobans later on in this campaign." said Rochelle Squires, PC candidate for Riel.

Liberals promise menstrual products too

The Manitoba Liberals said Thursday they are also committed to installing dispensing machines for menstrual products and would give pads and tampons for free to students, including those in post-secondary institutions. The cost would be $2.4 million a year, they estimate.

The Manitoba Liberals said they would commit to making free feminine hygiene products available in schools across the province after the NDP promised to do so Thursday morning. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont questioned why Kinew was determining staffing levels with midwives.

"These are decisions that should be made by experts in the health-care system based on what is needed and what they are seeing. Why is the head of a political party micromanaging the health-care system to the degree that they are choosing to hire six people here or three people there?" he asked in a statement.

Earlier this year, the B.C. government announced all of its public schools would be required to provide free menstrual products for students in school bathrooms. The products must be available by the end of 2019.

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About the Author

​Austin Grabish started reporting when he was young, landing his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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