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Quebec anti-vax tax: the federal government will let it pass, says Charest

Quebec anti-vax tax: the federal government will let it pass, says Charest

The federal government is unlikely to challenge Quebec’s controversial proposal to apply a tax on the unvaccinated in the province, former Premier Jean Charest has said.

Quebec has assured Ottawa that it will follow the principles of the Canada Health Act in implementing the levy – if it does not, the federal government could withhold health transfers.

Charest said that won’t happen.

“I’ve been there. When I was Premier of Quebec, there were things we were doing that, in some cases, were maybe outside the law. The federal government won’t budge. [this], they’ll let it go,” he said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period, which aired Sunday.

“Do they want to be on the side – and this is the current dilemma for governments – to be on the side or be seen to be on the side of the anti-vaccine? … Intervene directly within the Quebec health system? It would be frankly, it would be a very bad decision on their part.

Quebec announced the proposal last Tuesday, noting that the swab would apply to those without a medical exemption and could be enforced as early as the next few weeks.

Prime Minister François Legault has stipulated that $50 or $100 would not be a “significant” enough sentence for him.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in on the issue during a pandemic update the next day, noting that “strong incentives and measures” have worked in the fight against COVID-19.

He said the federal government was waiting for more details.

In a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said provincial governments are free to act as they see fit within their own jurisdictions.

“What we support is using all available mechanisms to encourage Canadians to get vaccinated, to do the right thing. In our own jurisdiction, whether it’s federally regulated industries, banks, telecommunications companies, airlines, we have imposed vaccination mandates,” he said.

“So provinces are looking within their own jurisdiction and what they think is the best way to encourage uptake of the vaccine.”

MP Christopher Skeete says the tax proposal stems from the simple fact that there is a financial and societal cost to not getting bitten.

“It is reflected in the contagion, that they spread the virus, it is also reflected in the fact that many people are sick from work, because they have contracted COVID. So there is a cost in terms of resources, in terms of money, in terms of society for these decisions, and I think at some point we have to discuss that,” he said.

Skeete reiterated that the bill will not be “punitive,” but rather one that emphasizes the “painfulness” of not getting vaccinated for legitimate reasons.

Charest said the announcement has received broad support among Quebecers who are increasingly frustrated with the public health ramifications of being unvaccinated.

“People in this province are very, very frustrated with non-vaxxers because there is, in their minds, a very direct connection between them occupying hospital beds and being in emergency units, when in fact there are people who are deprived of health services and life-saving services because of their decision. So that’s why there’s broad support,” he said.