Quebec plans to hit unvaccinated with a 'significant' tax


Gifted One
Staff member
Apr 16, 2021
Perched on a rock in Canada
The Quebec government wants to impose a “significant” financial penalty on the “small minority” of Quebecers who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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.”

The premier 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 (health care) 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,” he added.

The measure, which is sure to be controversial both in the province and in Canada, was immediately criticized by opposition party Québec Solidaire as “radical” for “completely” forgetting vulnerable people such as the homeless or those suffering from severe mental health issues.

“I think it’s fair to call this a province-wide vaccine mandate… This is a pretty aggressive nudge,” says Tim Caulfield, a Canada research chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta.

Caulfield says the measure is likely to work “a bit,” but the devil is in the details, which are still lacking.

He also thinks the social acceptability of the measure will also depend on the evolution of the pandemic over the next few weeks. Recent polls have shown the majority of vaccinated Canadians are increasingly frustrated by the unvaccinated few.

“(Legault) may feel this is a politically palatable move, despite how extreme it may seem,” he said. “If this continues to get worse, if the health-care system continues to be overburdened particularly by unvaccinated people, then this may not seem like such an extreme measure,” Caulfield says.

“If Omicron goes the other direction, if COVID goes the other direction, then I think that the perception of this might shift.”

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.

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, mainly 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 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 more  controversial.

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.

Caulfield suspects that an eventual tax on the unvaccinated will very likely lead to a court challenge, though it may end up being unsuccessful.

“As long as this is not targeted at a group that has been covered by discrimination law… it’s potentially defensible under the Charter,” he said.

Other provinces may not be so quick to follow Quebec’s lead on this measure.

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

B.C.’s Health Minister Adrian Dix and the province’s health officer Bonnie Henry both said during a press briefing Tuesday afternoon that the province was not planning a similar measure.

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

“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 and all unvaccinated people aged 14 and over will face fines worth 3,600 euros ($5,147).

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.

The premier of the province floated this but It's not a done deal.

Many experts warn that it won't hold up either legally or constitutionally. It certainly got people all across the country talking!

The very next day there were over 7000 vaccinations. The most ever in the province in one day.