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Opinion: Québec’s tax on the unvaccinated follows the same logic as other health taxes

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The seemingly constant controversy surrounding COVID vaccines in Canada was given a new conversation starter on Jan. 11, after Québec’s premier François Legault announced that his government was planning on introducing a bill that, if passed into law, would impose a tax on those Québécois who choose to remain unvaccinated. 

Here are the facts about the tax Legault announced: those who are medically unable to get vaccinated will be excluded, and the method of imposing the tax and the tax rate have yet to be decided. Legault was quoted as saying that the tax could be included in an individual’s yearly taxes, and the price of the tax would be more than $100.

Now for the “why” behind the announced tax: as of Jan. 11, only 10 per cent of Québec’s eligible population remains unvaccinated, but provincial health officials say that 50 per cent of those hospitalized because of COVID are unvaccinated. 

From what I’ve seen, many people are against the tax.

Alberta’s premier Jason Kenney was especially against the tax when he was asked about it during the Jan. 13 COVID update press conference. Kenney’s comments, however, were rather absurd.

Kenney started by saying, “imposing taxes on people based on their health condition, or choices, that violates the fundamental principle of universality in Canada’s healthcare system.”

Well, as Premier Legault said, people who are unable to receive the COVID vaccine will be exempt from the tax. Also, there are many taxes imposed on people because of their choices, especially as those choices relate to health. Alberta heavily taxes cigarettes, alcohol, and vapes in an effort to dissuade people from using them. In Alberta, every single cigarette carries a tax of about 27 cents.

Kenney proceeded to say that, in Canada, we have a moral obligation “not to pick and choose who gets care based on their financial ability.”

“The implication of this policy is that low-income unvaccinated people would be denied care,” Kenney said.

That is a false claim. The announced tax would not mean that unvaccinated people would be denied medical care if they don’t pay the tax. If someone is behind on filing their annual taxes, they are still able to access healthcare; they’re just committing tax evasion. Recently, a man from Bonnyville, Alberta, was charged with evading $269,796 in taxes and sentenced to seven months in jail, wherein he still has access to healthcare. 

The next comparison Kenney used to argue against the announced tax was to say that in Canada, we don’t tax people “who are overweight.” While it is true there is not a direct tax for being overweight, Newfoundland and Labrador will impose a “soda tax” later this year. For every litre of pop purchased, the consumer will pay an additional tax of 20 cents. The idea of imposing taxes on food that is proven bad for our health is not a new idea either.

Kenney’s third argument is that “when a drunk driver makes a terrible decision to get behind the wheel when they are inebriated, and they end up crashing their car or they need emergency care… we don’t ask for their credit card in (sic) the way into the emerge.”

Actually, when a drunk driver is pulled over, they are charged a $1,000 fine, charged for the cost of towing and impounding the car for 30 days, and charged the cost for the interlock program that is mandatory for one year after the initial 90-day license suspension. If a drunk driver is unable to pay those fines and charges, the Alberta government is able to garnish an individual’s wages and/or get a lien on any owned property. If the driver is able to pay the fines but is unwilling, the Alberta government can actually just take the money from the driver’s bank account.

While Kenney misinterpreted how the proposed tax would work, he spent just under four minutes explaining some of the dangers, downfalls, and discriminatory aspects of a private healthcare system. Kenney’s comments are, frankly, ironic considering his party has advocated for, and passed policy for, implementing private health care in Alberta.

Here are three articles to read more about the UCP’s plans to create a private health care system in Alberta: one, two, three.

In my opinion, the proposed tax on the unvaccinated follows the same logic as other health-related taxes; they are imposed to dissuade people from making choices that lead to dangerous, and costly health outcomes. Because this tax follows the same logic as the others, I’m in favour of it.

I’ve been a smoker for many years now. If I were to smoke a pack of 25 cigarettes a day in Alberta, I would pay $2,509.40 a year in taxes. It is my choice to smoke, and I pay taxes to do so because I have a higher likelihood of developing a serious, and costly, medical condition like lung cancer.

If people choose to remain unvaccinated against COVID, and choose to risk requiring costly medical care, then paying a tax allows them to contribute to funding our universal healthcare.

1 Comment

  1. A little different situation whereby it’s a tax to make you put an experimental concoction in your body that you have no idea of the eventual result and that doesn’t really do what it’s billed for?


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