Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stopped short on Wednesday of endorsing a plan by Quebec province to levy a tax on unvaccinated residents while noting that strong measures have worked before.
But Trudeau said the idea needs more study because the tax must be legal under the Canada Health Act and meet “the rights we all cherish as Canadians.”
“Details matter. We need to know exactly what measures they’re putting forward,” he told reporters at a press conference in Ottawa. “We need to know the terms and conditions so we can know if it’ll be effective.”
“We’ll be looking at the details to see how exactly this will transpire.”
Quebec is in the middle of a COVID-19 storm, with cases of the omicron variant numbering thousands per day and the danger that hospitalizations will overwhelm the health care system.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced the planned tax on Tuesday, providing few details but adding that it would be significant, likely more than C$100 per individual. Only 10% of Quebecers are unvaccinated, but they make up 50% of the 255 people in intensive care in the province, clogging hospitals.
“Those who refuse to get the shot bring a burden to hospital staff and an important financial burden for the majority of Quebecers,” Legault said. “All Quebec adults who refuse in the coming weeks to at least get a first dose will be getting a bill.”
He said those who have a medical reason will be exempt from the coming tax.
Trudeau said the federal government has found that strong measures work to get reluctant people vaccinated.
“As we’ve said, incentives and strong measures, whether it’s vaccine passports, whether it’s requirements for travelers, whether it’s the requirement for public servants to be fully vaccinated, we have taken very strong measures in the past, and they have worked in terms of keeping Canadians safe,” he said.