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Quebec working on new ‘significant’ health tax for the unvaccinated

‘There are consequences on our health system and it’s not up to all Quebecers to pay for that,’ Premier Legault says

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The Quebec government wants to impose a “significant” financial penalty on the ‘small minority’ of Quebecers who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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Premier François Legault made the announcement — which would be a first in Canada — during a press conference on Tuesday. He said he was working on the tax with Finance Minister Eric Girard while also reviewing the measure’s legality.

“Unfortunately, there is still a small minority, about 10 per cent of the population, that refuses to get vaccinated,” Legault said. “I sense the frustration from Quebecers towards that minority that … is clogging our hospitals.”

“That is why I am announcing that we are currently working on a health contribution that will be charged to all Quebec adults who refuse to get vaccinated,” he continued, adding that people with medical exemptions would be excluded from the new tax.

Legault did not announce any details nor a date for the new tax, nor did he specify the amount except to say that it would be “significant.”

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Legault said that unvaccinated Quebecers currently occupy 50 per cent of intensive care unit beds in the province, despite being one tenth of the population.

“It is shocking,” he said. “People who refuse to get vaccinated impose a burden on (healthcare) personnel and an important financial burden on the majority of Quebecers.”

“All adults in Quebec who don’t accept to go get at least a first dose in the next few weeks will have a bill to pay because there are consequences on our health system and its not up to all Quebecers to pay for that.”

The premier estimates that 1,000 more hospital employees and 1,500 long-term care workers are needed to get through the fifth wave fueled by the extremely transmissible Omicron variant.

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Legault made the announcement at the same time as he announced a new head of the province’s public health agency. Dr. Luc Boileau is replacing Dr. Horatio Arruda, who announced his resignation Monday evening namely because he feared he had lost the confidence of the public.

Quebec has imposed some of the strictest restrictions on its population throughout the pandemic, including two separate curfews (one in the winter of 2021, and one currently in effect since the beginning of the month).

It has also been somewhat of a trailblazer when it comes to enforcing new measures to fight against COVID-19. Some, such as bumping back administration of second vaccine doses from a few weeks to six months to vaccinate more people faster, have been applauded. Others, such as strict curfews, have been very controversial.

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Last week, Quebec became the second province (after Saskatchewan) to extend its vaccine passport system to liquor and pot stores. Days later, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced on Twitter that appointments for first vaccine doses had quadrupled to 6,000.

But other provinces may not be so quick to follow Quebec’s lead on taxing the unvaccinated.

For example, a spokesperson for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday the province is not considering a similar tax.

“Alberta has not considered and is not considering bringing in any kind of non-compliance vaccine tax,” Justin Brattinga said by email.

Last Friday, Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said he believes mandatory vaccinations will happen in Canada.

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“I see it coming personally. Not now. I don’t think we are there yet. But I think decisions need to be had about mandatory vaccinations because we have to get rid of COVID-19,” he said in French in response to a reporter’s question.

More stringent vaccine requirements are already being introduced in some places.

From February 1, vaccination will be mandatory in Austria.

In Greece, people over the age of 60 will be fined 100 euros ($144) a month if they don’t get a shot by Jan. 15.

In Italy, vaccines are compulsory for people over 50.

German MPs are expected to soon vote on making vaccination mandatory.

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