Feds unlikely to challenge Quebec's proposed tax on unvaccinated, Charest says
The federal government is unlikely to challenge Quebec’s controversial proposal to apply a tax on the unvaccinated in the province, says former premier Jean Charest.
Quebec has assured Ottawa that they will follow the principles of the Canada Health Act in implementing the levy – if they didn’t, the federal government could withhold health transfers.
Charest said that won’t happen.
“I’ve been there. In the days when I was premier of Quebec, there were things we were doing, that in certain instances, may have been outside the Act. The federal government won’t move on [this], they’ll let it pass,” he said during an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday.
“Do they want to be on the side—and that's the dilemma right now for governments—be on the side or be seen as on the side of the anti vaxxers? … Intervening directly within the health-care system of Quebec? That would be frankly, that would be a very bad move on their side.”
Quebec announced the proposal last Tuesday, noting the levy would apply to those without a medical exemption and could be executed as soon as the next several weeks.
Premier François Legault stipulated that $50 or $100 wouldn’t be a “significant" enough penalty for him.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in on the issue during a pandemic update the following day, noting that “incentives and strong measures” have worked in the fight against COVID-19.
He said the federal government is awaiting more details.
In a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said provincial governments are free to act how they see fit in their own jurisdictions.
“What we're supportive of, is to use every available mechanism to encourage Canadians to get vaccinated, to do the right thing. In our own jurisdiction, whether it's federally regulated industries, banks, telecommunications companies, airlines, we've imposed vaccine mandates,” he said.
“So provinces are looking within their own jurisdiction, and what they think is the best way to encourage vaccine uptake.”
MNA Christopher Skeete says the tax proposal stems from the simple fact that there is a financial and societal cost to not getting the jab.
“It's reflected in the contagion, that they propagate the virus, it's also seen in the fact that a lot of people are ill from work, because they’ve gotten COVID. So there is a cost in terms of resources, in terms of money, in terms of society for these decisions, and I think at some point we have to have a discussion about that,” he said.
Skeete reiterated that the bill won’t be a “punitive” one, but rather one that emphasizes the “onerousness” of not getting vaccinated for legitimate reasons.
Charest said there’s been widespread support of the announcement among Quebecers who are growing increasingly more frustrated with the public health ramifications of the unvaccinated.
“People in this province are very, very frustrated with the unvaxxed because there is, in their mind, a very direct link between the fact that they are occupying hospital beds, and they are in emergency units, when in fact there are people who are being deprived of health services and life-depending services because of their decision. So, that's the reason why there's wide support,” he said.