Sunday, January 29, 2023

Quebec will tax those who refuse COVID-19 vaccination


People take part in a demonstration against the Quebec government’s measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Montreal, Saturday, January 8, 2022. Canadian Press/Graham HughesGraham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Quebec will tax people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 to offset their disproportionate costs to the health care system and encourage more people to get their shots.

Premier François Legault pointed to an intensive care hospitalization in Quebec as the driver for Levi. Unvaccinated Quebecers make up just 10 percent of the province’s adult population, but almost half of those admitted to the ICU with the disease, he said.

“It’s a question of equity,” he said. “Right now, these people put a very significant burden on our health care network. I think it is normal that most of the population is asking that this will result.”

A painful fifth wave of the pandemic has overwhelmed Quebec hospitals and strict restrictions imposed by the government. On Monday night, Horacio Aruda, the province’s director of public health, resigned, citing erosion of public support in his explanation for the lockdown measures.

The tax would be for a “significant” amount, Mr Legault said, providing some additional details about a policy that would be a Canadian first. The levy would not be applied to hospitals in exchange for health services, but premiums would be paid by Quebec residents for public prescription drug insurance, which is collected through income tax returns, he said.

The government is still studying legal issues around the tax, but will be exempted for valid medical reasons, Legault said at a news conference on Tuesday.

On social media, his chief of staff, Martin Koskinen, tweeted defending the charge without vaccination. “To avoid health fees or COVID fines, there is a simple solution: a free and accessible vaccine,” he wrote. “We have rights, but also responsibilities. Democratic debate on this question will be fascinating.”

The new tax overshadows the departure of Quebec’s longtime public health director Dr. Aruda, who resigned on Monday after 22 months helping lead the province’s pandemic response. In the early days of the crisis, Dr. Aruda was a popular and colorful personality whose gestures, bright clothes and talk of Portuguese custard tarts helped reassure Quebecers in a frightening time.

But as the death toll rose and the months wore on, the public soured on his style and began to doubt some of his advice. The fifth wave of the virus, which has seen Quebec impose a curfew for the second time, has seen increasing demand for its departure. In a resignation letter, Dr. Aruda acknowledged that doubts about their scientific credibility had eroded support for the sanctions.

Introducing his interim public health chief – Dr. Luc Boileau, a veteran of the province’s public-health bureaucracy, Mr Legault made his case for implementing a tax measure in Quebec’s fight against COVID-19. He said the province still plans to expand the use of vaccine passports to include places such as shopping malls and hairdressers, but that the vaccinated majority deserve even stricter measures.

“I think it’s a question of fairness for the 90 percent of the population who made some sacrifices,” he said. “I think we give them these kinds of measures.”

Asked about his position on the tax, Dr. Boileau said the policy was drawn up before taking on the new job and it was too early for him to give an opinion.

Some researchers have sharply criticized paying salaries without vaccination, arguing that it could hurt disadvantaged people and be difficult to implement. Pierre-Carl Michaud, a health economics specialist at Montreal’s HEC Business School, thought of those who can’t afford a fee.

“I’m just afraid that if the penalties are set at a very high level, obviously it’s going to change people’s behavior, but we’re going to get this problem with people who can’t pay And, in my opinion, there are probably a lot of people in that situation,” he said. “Let’s say they fined $5,000 or $1,000. And you get someone on social support, non-vaccinated, what do you do with those people? Do you go to their house and confiscate the food from the fridge?”

Quebec is not the only jurisdiction to impose financial penalties on people who refuse vaccination and who do not have a valid medical exemption. In December, Austria said those who flout the country’s vaccine mandate could be charged about $5,171 every three months starting this year. In Greece, the government this month made it mandatory for everyone aged 60 and over to get vaccinated, with those who refuse to face a $144 monthly fine.

While Mr Legault released few details on Tuesday, it appears his policy will not conflict with the Canada Health Act, said Catherine Fierbeck, chair of Dalhousie University’s Department of Political Science, which researches health care policy and governance. .

“It would only violate [Canada Health Act] at the point of service provision if necessary, and if service is refused due to failure to pay,” Prof. Fairlbeck said in an e-mail. He added that the denial of COVID-19 vaccination proposed by Quebec The surcharge for people who pay taxes is similar to the health premium model that provinces such as Ontario apply in addition to provincial taxes. Under that model, Prof. Fearlbeck said the penalty for non-payment of taxes is a penalty for non-payment.

“There is no denial of services, so there is no infringement,” she said.

Pro. Fierlbeck said Quebec’s policy is not as dire as a mandate, but puts pressure on those who have so far refused a vaccine. She said it would present questions of fairness as to whether it applies on a sliding scale based on income and whether it applies equally to people, no matter their COVID-19. There is no risk of contracting it and getting dire consequences from it.

In a brief statement late Tuesday, a spokesman for Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the government was reviewing the announcement from Quebec and focused on what it would do nationally to increase vaccination coverage. can do

“Provinces and territories will continue to decide on their own public-health measures that are within their jurisdiction,” said spokeswoman Marie-France Proulx.

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