Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says “incentives and strong measures” have worked in the fight against COVID-19, weighing in on Quebec’s proposed tax on unvaccinated residents.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday during a pandemic update, Trudeau said Ottawa is reviewing Quebec’s plan to penalize those without a medical exemption with a financial levy “with interest” and is awaiting more details from the province.
“As we’ve said, incentives and strong measures, whether it’s vaccine passports, whether it’s requirements for travellers, 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.
“We will continue to look and work with the provinces and look at measures put forward.”
Quebec announced on Tuesday that it will introduce a financial penalty in the coming weeks for those refusing to get the jab as the health-care system there continues to feel the strain of mounting COVID-19 cases.
Premier François Legault said $50 or $100 wouldn’t be “significant” enough for him.
Trudeau said the province assured the federal government that the key principle of the Canada Health Act – that everyone has equal access to health care without financial or other barriers – would be respected.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos added to the prime minister’s remarks, noting that vaccine mandates have proven effective.
“On vaccine mandates, the key word here is benevolence. Both the language and the actions are there and designed to protect people. This is a severe disease, we want people to be protected against it… No one, I believe, is thinking or certainly speaking of forcibly, physically vaccinating people in Canada,” he said.
The federal government announced in August it would require vaccination in the federal workforce and the federally regulated transportation sector.
Duclos echoed his sentiment relayed at last week’s government press conference that he suspects more stringent vaccine mandates across the country will be a topic of conversation in the days and weeks to come.
The prime minister was quick to call out the Conservative Party for continuing to stir up a debate about accommodating the unvaccinated in Canada.
“Mr. O’Toole is out to try and protect his own leadership and he’s not thinking about protecting the health-care workers who are on the frontlines,” he said.
“Trying to pretend that rapid testing, or testing in general, is as good as getting vaccinated is simply irresponsible.”
O’Toole has long stated that while he supports vaccination, and encourages Canadians to get vaccinated, there must also be efforts made to make “reasonable” accommodations for the unvaccinated.
The Conservative Party has not issued a public statement on Quebec’s proposal.
During a separate press conference on Wednesday, NDP health critic Don Davies said the party is interested in government approaches that encourage people to get vaccinated.
“Fundamentally we think that education and information particularly targeted at vaccine hesitant people and parents who are concerned about vaccinating their children are productive ways to encourage people to get vaccinated,” he said.
He added that while he hasn’t had the chance to chat with his caucus about the plan, it’s unclear the predicted impact of a $100 tax.
More than 7,000 people in Quebec registered for their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday.
“Our highest in several days,” tweeted Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé, noting that 5,000 appointments were also made on Monday.
With a file from CTV News Montreal’s Rachel Lau