Skip to main content

Quebec to table bill to tax the unvaccinated amid pushback from opposition parties, doctors


The Legault government said it will table a bill on a controversial tax for the unvaccinated and has vowed to let it be open for debate in the Quebec legislature.

Soon after Premier François Legault announced the unprecedented public health measure on Tuesday, opponents called it a “radical” idea that would cause more harm than good, particularly for vulnerable people, such as those who are homeless.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference on Thursday, the premier said the bill will be introduced in the National Assembly in early February and that “all political parties will be able to vote either for or against and propose adjustments, if necessary.”

He gave very few specifics on the new measure when he announced it on Tuesday, other than to say it would be a “significant” financial penalty and that it would not apply to people with medical exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine. A fee of $100, he said, would not be good enough.

The intention of what he described as a “healthcare contribution” is not to hurt vulnerable populations, Legault said Thursday.

“What we're saying is those people who choose to not get vaccinated, well, there will be a price to pay … because there is an impact on society as a whole, there's an impact on the costs of our healthcare network.”

The government’s legal advisers are looking at how to define the bill’s exceptions that would apply to, for example, people with mental illnesses.

Some doctors have condemned the government's plans. The idea goes “against the fundamental values of public health,” according to the public health director of the Gaspé region, Dr. Yv Bonnier-Viger, a renowned epidemiologist.

Meanwhile, opposition parties called on the government to abandon its proposal. 

Quebec Solidaire health critic Vincent Marissal said the Legault government needed to present its legal and scientific opinions that justify such a decision.

Quebec Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade also denounced the financial penalty, saying the premier has chosen to “divide and divert” with his plan that she said lacked any “public health advice, without any details, without having answered questions.”

Legal experts also called into question the constitutionality of such a proposal. Human rights lawyer Julius Grey said it would almost certainly be in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but depending on how it’s argued in court, if someone challenges it, it could be a “close call.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association also called for the government to abandon its proposal.

"Our Charter recognizes individual autonomy over our bodies and medical decisions. Allowing the government to levy fines on those who do not agree with the government’s recommended medical treatment is a deeply troubling proposition," wrote Cara Zwibel, the association's general counsel, in a statement.

Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan are among the provinces that have said they would not consider a tax on unvaccinated people. Top Stories

Stay Connected