Halifax regional council has dug in its heels over the provision of menstrual products in municipal facilities such community centres, pools and arenas.
Next year’s operating budget for the facilities was presented Wednesday, but did not include the $230,000 needed to provide the products and install dispensing equipment.
“Staff have missed the boat on this, these are essential,” said Coun. Tony Mancini. “It’s 2020 right? Let’s remind everybody what year it is.”
Councillors were particularly upset that money for the menstrual products wasn’t included in the proposed budget, but the increase for three new employees in corporate communications was covered.
“This has ended up as an item that we have to struggle and plead and mount a case for,” said Coun. Lisa Blackburn. “I just don’t think it sends a good message.”
More staff over tampons
Blackburn pointed out that menstrual products are being provided at all 14 branches of the municipality’s library service without a significant impact on its finances.
“It should have been baked into the budget,” said Blackburn.
Finance officials said a staff report on where the funding will come from has not made it to the audit and finance committee, so the item could not be included. The annual ongoing costs for menstrual products would be $220,000.
Coun. Shawn Cleary had another solution. He asked for a report on cutting $267,000 — the cost of the staff increases.
Cleary pointed out Halifax already has 22 people in corporate communications.
“That’s a lot for a city our size,” said Cleary.
More staff needed ‘to up our game’
The municipality’s director of corporate and customer services, Jerry Blackwood, said communication officers do not just deal with the media, but help with special projects and emergency situations.
“The increased staffing was based on a consultant’s review of where we need to up our game,” said Blackwood.
Council debates over next year’s proposed budget will continue into February.