A federal government proposal to make free menstrual products available in federally regulated workplaces is garnering broad support.

At the heart of the plan is “a question of gender equality,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.

Announced last week in the Canada Gazette, the proposal is expected to benefit approximately 40 per cent of employees in federally regulated workspaces – public servants, RCMP members and employees of banks, telecommunications and transportation companies.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said she would support any policy that “takes away barriers to education that relates to menstrual stigma.”

NDP MP Matthew Dube agreed with Trudeau that providing free tampons and pads to women is a matter of fairness.

“It’s fundamentally unequal when you consider that men don’t require these products in their day-to-day life,” he said.

Despite the widespread support, there was at least one detractor who believes that the idea insults and panders to women.

“It’s not the role of the government to subsidize that,” Maxime Bernier, the leader of the new People’s Party, told reporters on Monday. “Are we paying for toilet paper? It’s ridiculous.”

Over the weekend, the Quebec MP tweeted sarcastically: “Hurrah! Our caring and generous government is removing another major social inequity by solving the Great Menstrual Products Unavailability Crisis of the early 21st century. How in the world were previous generations able to manage their lives without such help from Ottawa?!”

Melanie Joly, the Minister of Tourism and Official Languages said that she didn’t think women would welcome “comments about how they should be taking care of their own hygiene coming from Maxime Bernier.”

The Canada Gazette notice announcing the proposal said that women without access to menstrual products sometimes “turn to unsuitable improvised solutions such as using toilet paper and paper towels to act in place of tampons and pads.” Others extend the use of their products, which poses major health risks.

These problems were particularly acute in remote locations, the notice added.

A 2018 survey from Plan Canada International found that 70 per cent of women have missed work, school or social activities because of their period. One-third of all Canadian women under the age of 25 experienced “period poverty” and struggled to afford menstrual products, the survey said.

On CTV’s Power Play, Jean-Yves Duclos, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, said that the plan is less about subsidizing the costs of menstrual products for well-compensated federal employees than it is about setting an example.

“We need to, in 2019, recognize these types of products and services are essential,” he said.

In 2015, the federal government lifted the HST and GST on pads and tampons, but British Columbia is the only province to require free menstrual products in schools.

The government will consult on its proposal for 60 days.

It is unclear what it will cost employers to provide the products free of charge.