Quebec to table bill to tax the unvaccinated amid pushback from opposition parties, doctors

Legault’s government said it would introduce a controversial tax on unvaccinated people and pledged to allow it to open for debate in the Quebec legislature.

Shortly after Prime Minister Francois Legault announced the unprecedented public health measure on Tuesday, opponents described it as a “radical” idea that would do more harm than good, especially for vulnerable people, such as the homeless.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Thursday, the prime minister said the bill would be presented to the National Assembly in early February and that “all political parties will be able to vote either for or against and propose amendments, if necessary”.

He provided very little detail about the new measure when he announced it on Tuesday, other than saying it would be a “significant” financial penalty and that it would not apply to people who have medical exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine. He said a $100 fee would not be enough.

Legault said Thursday that the intent of what he called a “health care contribution” was not to harm vulnerable populations.

“What we’re saying is those people who choose not to get vaccinated, well, there’s going to be a price to pay … because there’s an impact on society as a whole, and there’s an impact on the costs of our healthcare network.”

Government legal advisors are looking at how to identify exceptions to the bill that apply, for example, to people with mental illness.

Some doctors denounced the government’s plans. The idea runs counter to “fundamental values ​​of public health,” according to the director of public health for the Gaspé region, Dr. Yves Bonnier-Figer, a renowned epidemiologist.

Meanwhile, opposition parties have called on the government to drop its proposal.

Vincent Marisal, a health critic for Quebec Solidere, said the Legault government needed to provide its legal and scientific views justifying such a decision.

Quebec liberal leader Dominique Engled also denounced the financial penalty, saying the prime minister chose to “divide and bypass” his plan which she said lacked any “public health advice, without any details, without answering questions”.

Legal experts also questioned the constitutionality of such a proposal. It would almost certainly be a violation of the Bill of Rights and Freedoms, said human rights lawyer Julius Gray, but depending on how it is discussed in court, if someone challenges it, it could be a “close contact”.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association also called on the government to drop its proposal.

“Our charter recognizes individual autonomy in our bodies and medical decisions. Allowing the government to impose fines on those who do not consent to government-recommended medical treatment is a deeply troubling proposition,” the association’s general counsel, Kara Zwebel, wrote in a statement. .

Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are among the provinces that have said they will not consider a tax on unvaccinated people.

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