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O’Toole says he opposes Quebec plan to “tax and target” the unvaccinated

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OTTAWA – Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he respects provincial jurisdiction, but opposes Quebec’s plan to “tax and target” those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

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The Conservative leader made his position known on Prime Minister François Legault’s proposal during a live event on Facebook Thursday evening. Some of its MPs had already taken to social media to condemn the proposal as discriminatory, unethical and punishing low-income people.

Earlier in the week, Legault announced that unvaccinated adult Quebeckers who do not have a medical exemption can expect to start paying a “significant” financial penalty.

The prime minister said legislation to introduce the measure would arrive in February. He argued it was necessary because about half of intensive care patients are not vaccinated, even though only about 10% of adult Quebecers are not immune to COVID-19.

Other provinces are reporting similar trends as authorities warn the health system’s capacity is fragile in the face of the lightning-fast spread of the more transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19.

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O’Toole, who encourages vaccinations but opposes vaccination mandates, called Quebec’s proposal unfair, predicting it won’t persuade those who are reluctant to get vaccinated to finally roll up their sleeves.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday he needed more details on Quebec’s plan before he could say whether he supported it. The federal New Democrats have not taken a position on the plan either.

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Trudeau said the province has indicated it will follow the Canada Health Act, which governs the nation’s universally funded health care system that the provinces provide.

O’Toole, on the other hand, said Quebec’s proposal does not align with Canada’s approach to health care and that it is easy to “turn 85% of the population frustrated against 10 or 15% of the population “.

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“People who are vaccinated are frustrated with what they perceive as a small group of people holding the country back,” O’Toole said.

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 heavily vaccinated population.

Trudeau, for his part, criticized O’Toole for saying those who are not vaccinated should be allowed to take rapid tests, rather than losing their jobs or being put on leave under mandatory vaccination policies. .

O’Toole is not the first Conservative leader to voice his disapproval of Quebec’s plan. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney did so earlier this week, both ruling out the possibility of introducing a similar penalty for unvaccinated residents in their provinces.

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