Conservative leader Erin O’Toole says that while he respects regional jurisdiction, he opposes Quebec’s plan to “tax and target” those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Conservative Party leader announced his position on Prime Minister Francois Legault’s proposal during a Facebook Live event late Thursday. Some of his lawmakers have already taken to social media to denounce the proposal as discriminatory, immoral, and penalizing low-income earners.
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Earlier in the week, Legault announced that unvaccinated adult Quebecers who do not have a medical exemption can expect to start paying a “significant” financial fine.
The premier said legislation to implement the measure is coming in February. They are necessary because about half of patients in intensive care are not immunized, he said, even though only about 10 percent of adults in Quebec have not been immunized against COVID-19.
Other counties have reported similar trends as officials warn that the health system’s capacity is fragile in the face of the lightning-fast spread of the most transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19.
O’Toole, who encourages vaccination but opposes vaccine mandates, called Quebec’s proposal unfair, and predicted it wouldn’t convince those reluctant to have a chance to finally roll up their sleeves.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that he needs more details about the Quebec plan before he can determine whether he supports it. Nor did the new Federal Democrats take a position on the plan.
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Ontario has reported 3,630 people with COVID in hospital, 500 in the intensive care unit.
Trudeau said the province has indicated it will follow the Health Canada Act, which governs the country’s globally funded health care system and provided by provinces.
On the other hand, O’Toole said Quebec’s proposal is inconsistent with Canada’s approach to healthcare and that it is easy to “turn 85 percent of the frustrated population against another 10 or 15 percent of the population.”
“People who have been vaccinated are frustrated by what they see as a small group of people holding the country back,” O’Toole said.
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He blamed Trudeau’s failure to provide better access to rapid antigen tests and personal protective equipment for forcing provinces to reimpose restrictive public health measures, despite Canada’s highly vaccinated population.
For his part, Trudeau criticized O’Toole for saying those who have not been vaccinated should be allowed to get prompt tests, rather than losing their jobs or being given time off under mandatory vaccination policies.
O’Toole is not the first Conservative leader to express his disapproval of the Quebec plan. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Alberta Premier Jason Kenny did so earlier this week, ruling out the possibility of a similar punishment being imposed on unvaccinated residents in their province.
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