Unvaccinated Quebecers will have to pay a health tax, Legault says

Unvaccinated Quebecers without medical exemptions will have to pay if they don't get 1st dose soon

Quebec Premier François Legault said Tuesday the province would be imposing a health tax on Quebecers who refuse to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks.

We’re looking for a health contribution for adults who refuse to be vaccinated for non-medical reasons, Legault said at a news conference, in which he also announced an interim public health director to replace Dr. Horacio Arruda.

Arruda handed in his resignation letter Monday evening, pointing to public criticism of recent health measures. Quebec imposed an overnight curfew before New Year’s Eve, the second time it has done so over the course of the pandemic.

Legault did not say when the payment would take effect or how much it would cost, but he did say he wanted it to be significant enough to act as an incentive to get vaccinated — more than $50 or $100, he added. Legault said details would be revealed in the coming weeks.

He said the contribution could be included in people’s provincial tax filings, but he did not say whether it would be in those for 2021, which are to be filed by April 30, 2022.

These people, they put a very important burden on our health-care network, Legault said. I think it’s reasonable a majority of the population is asking that there be consequences.

Roughly 10 per cent of Quebecers remain unvaccinated, but health officials say they take up about 50 per cent of COVID-19 beds in hospitals.

Some surgeries cancelled

Hospitals were dealing with severe staff shortages before the Omicron variant began spreading in the province, which seriously exacerbated those shortages. Several regional health boards have had to cancel up to 80 per cent of non-urgent and semi-urgent surgeries to free up staff to help with COVID-19 infections.

Legault said his government was also looking at further expanding the use of the province’s vaccination passport to businesses, such as hairdressers and other personal care services, but that he wanted to go further than that with the tax.

As of Jan. 18, customers will have to show their vaccine passports before entering SAQ and SQDC establishments, Quebec’s provincially run alcohol and cannabis stores.

It’s a question of fairness for 90 per cent of the population, which has made some sacrifices, Legault said, referring to those who have at least one vaccine dose. I think we owe them this kind of measure.