LILLEY: Quebec’s anti-vax tax is political, not medical and should be rejected

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Punitive: That was the blunt yet accurate description of Quebec’s proposal to tax the unvaccinated. The word was used by Ontario’s chief medical officer Kieran Moore on Wednesday when he explained why he won’t recommend Ontario follow Quebec’s lead.

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Ever since federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos suggested vaccines be made mandatory last week, provinces have been asked if they would take such a step. The premiers of New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador indicated an openness to the idea but it was Quebec’s Francois Legault who announced a new policy on Tuesday.

Legault said he wanted a significant penalty for any unvaccinated adult with details to come later.

“Right now, these people put a very important burden on our health-care network. I think it’s normal that the majority of the population are asking that there be a consequence,” Legault said.

Notice his choice of words. For Legault, this is about punishment, not about public health.

“Do you think this is a measure Ontario should be considering? And is there any public health value in a measure like that at all?” a reporter asked Ontario’s Dr. Moore in Toronto on Wednesday.

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His answer was a clear no.

“We have not made that recommendation to government ever throughout this pandemic. It’s not one that we would bring forward. It does, in my mind, seem punitive,” Moore said.

He noted that the only public health advice on mandatory vaccines had been around nursing homes.

“Only in the highest-risk setting have we mandated it, and that was in the long-term-care facilities where all of us have realized that the increased death rate, the increased risk of severe outcomes had to be balanced by maximizing immunization,” Moore said.

The reason Moore’s rejection of the idea should carry weight is that he’s the medical expert. He was asked if this measure had any public health value and said no. There are many legal, constitutional and even moral arguments against making vaccines mandatory but this is a public health expert saying no. He fully backs the vaccination program but he can see this is not the path we should go down.

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Compare that to our prime minister, who hemmed and hawed multiple times when questioned before giving tacit approval to Legault’s plan.

“Different jurisdictions are making different decisions about how to encourage people to get vaccinated, and as a federal government, we will be continuing to be there to support them in those decisions and to make sure that everyone gets vaccinated,” Justin Trudeau told a news conference in Ottawa.

Constitutional experts such as lawyer Julius Grey have pointed out this idea could be a flagrant violation of the constitution. It could also be a violation of the Canada Health Act.

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Thankfully, premiers Doug Ford in Ontario, Jason Kenney in Alberta and Scott Moe in Saskatchewan have all said no to this concept, which is more about punishment than public health. But the pressure on provinces to adopt such measures will continue.

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One question that needs to be asked is why any province would follow Quebec’s lead on anything during this pandemic. Quebec has the worst record in the country no matter how you slice it.

  1. Quebec Premier Francois Legault unveils his wish list to the leaders in the federal election, at his office in Quebec City, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021.

    Quebec to force unvaccinated to pay ‘significant’ financial penalty

  2. Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends a news conference alongside Health Minister Christine Elliot (centre) and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy in Toronto on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.

    Ontario rejects tax on unvaxxed

Their death rate per 100,000 of population is 140, a rate double that of Ontario, almost double Alberta’s and near triple British Columbia’s. The infection rate per capita in Quebec throughout the pandemic is also the highest.

This isn’t just due to their horrific first wave. It’s the same now with higher case and death rates.

There are medical reasons not to bring in the anti-vax tax as well as legal and moral reasons. There is also the practical matter that Quebec’s draconian measures have produced the worst results.

The question shouldn’t be about following Quebec. It should be: Why would anyone?

blilley@postmedia.com

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