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Poor policy

The Trudeau government prides itself on championing women, but its latest announcement will do little to help the women in this country who need it the most.

The Trudeau government prides itself on championing women, but its latest announcement will do little to help the women in this country who need it the most.

Federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu announced Friday the Liberal government plans to introduce measures to make menstrual products more readily available for some women.

It was the perfect opportunity for Hajdu to announce new federal rules for employers requiring sanitary products to be provided in workplaces, or to announce funding to help provide those products to low-income Canadians. Heck, she could have even announced a reduction or elimination of import tariffs on these products.

Any one of those would have had a bigger impact on women’s lives than what she did announce: a plan to offer these products for free, but only in federally regulated workplaces. The measure would extend to all public service jobs, from the RCMP to Crown corporations. Salaries, benefits and generous tax-funded pensions hardly put this group in the needy class. They were selected because they are conveniently under the thumb of the PMO.

As the next federal election approaches, it makes sense that Trudeau would be hitting social issues hard. Those, after all, have been his bread and butter over the past three and a half years, although much of the glamour has worn off for Canadians who have tired of his consistent grandstanding.

But the government in general has not had a great track record on menstrual products. It wasn’t until 2015 that the Harper government eliminated GST (but not import tariffs) applied to these products.

Women who are working in public service will undoubtedly make use of Hajdu’s policy, but it leaves our country’s most needy out in the cold.

Last year, Plan International Canada polled 2,000 women for a report that concluded one third of Canadian women under the age of 25 struggle to afford menstrual products. Too bad this measure won’t solve that problem.

In August, Always – a company that specializes in feminine hygiene products – estimated nearly one in seven Canadian girls miss school because they don’t have access to menstrual products. That, too, goes unsolved with this latest announcement.

Hajdu touted this measure as a sign that the Liberal government is committed to helping women, but it smacks of token feminism. The announcement could be seen as a desperate manoeuvre to shore up support among women by a government whose approval ratings are in freefall.

The federal Liberals have been dropping in the polls following the SNC-Lavalin scandal, not just because of the air of government corruption surrounding Trudeau but also because his treatment of former ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott made him look like a hypocrite.

In the wake of that, measures like the one Hajdu announced look more like political posturing than a sincere effort to improve the lives of women.

It appears the feds are looking for easy wins. When the election hits, they will no doubt hold this up as an example of their social agenda. But they may find their rhetoric rings hollow with voters who are fed up with Trudeau’s behaviour.

Trudeau's endless appetite for photo ops and social engineering, while feigning interest in the economy, are wearing thin with Canadians. Legal pot and free feminine hygiene products for federal workers. Prime ministerial indeed.