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Quebec scraps proposed tax on the unvaccinated, announces gyms and spas can reopen


Quebec has backtracked on its plans to impose a tax on people unvaccinated against COVID-19 after mounting opposition to the controversial measure. Additional public health measures will also be lifted later this month.

On Tuesday, Quebec Premier François Legault said he had prepared a bill to be tabled in the National Assembly, but said said he realized the legislation would have been too divisive at a fragile time in the pandemic.

“I understand that this divides Quebecers, and right now we need to build bridges to listen to each other, Quebecers must remain united,” he said during a news conference about the COVID-19 situation in Quebec.

“We are seeing growing discontent. I saw, of course, the reaction of the opposition parties. So I think that I also have a responsibility beyond protecting the safety of Quebecers by inciting Quebec to get vaccinated. I also have a responsibility that all of these people really learn to live together. We don't want a divided Quebec.”

The Legault government is already being praised for the decision. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said Tuesday the premier made the right move.

“It takes a humble man to admit being wrong, and Premier François Legault certainly has shown his humble side and did the right thing today,” said CTF Quebec Director Renaud Brossard in a statement. “The vaccine tax would have opened a whole Pandora’s box for new health-based taxes and taxpayers are thankful it will remain closed.”

The proposal was negatively received by many, including Liberal health critic Monsef Derraji, who predicted that the idea would be abandoned in the same way Quebec backtracked on its plan to force health care workers to get vaccinated or be suspended without pay.

Constitutional lawyers and civil rights groups also questioned the legality of the proposed tax. 


With hospitalizations continuing to trend down in recent days and fewer health-care workers who are absent, Quebec said it's also in a better position to lift more public health restrictions.

As of Feb. 14, gyms and spas will be able to reopen their facilities at 50 per cent capacity, Legault announced Tuesday. Customers will be required to wear a face mask and maintain physical distancing, though gym clients can remove their mask during “intense periods of play,” according to the health ministry.

Sports for adults and artistic activities will also resume on Feb. 14 for groups of up to 25 people, however, games, competitions and tournament are still banned. Locker rooms must remain at 50 per cent capacity, and masking the physical distancing rules must be respected.

On Monday, restaurant dining rooms reopened across Quebec at half capacity with a maximum of four people per table from two family bubbles. The provincial government has previously announced that venues, cinemas and arenas will be allowed to reopen at 50 per cent capacity on Feb. 7 with a maximum of 500 people.

Places of worship will also be permitted to reopen at half capacity on that date with a 250-person maximum with a mandatory vaccine passport requirement.

Legault said Tuesday 10,600 health workers are still absent and “the situation is improving in our hospitals, but we can't forget that we still have a long way to go to restart surgeries that have been delayed.”

The cautious approach is why other businesses have to remain closed in Quebec, such as bars and nightclubs, as the province looks to continue reopening more sectors of the economy in phases.

“It's to make sure that it will not induce automatically a really high rates of contact and address context. So this is why those measures that have been taken so far,” said Dr. Luc Boileau, the province’s interim public health director.

“Obviously, it has been studied a lot and the research clearly said that those are places where the risk of transmission of the virus are very high. So that's why it's not right now, but it will certainly happen in the near future.” Top Stories

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