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Jagmeet Singh calls Quebec’s COVID-19 tax a threat to public health care – Toronto Star

Federal New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh listens to a question during a news conference on Dec. 7, 2021 in Ottawa.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has condemned Quebec’s plan to slap a charge or tax on unvaccinated persons, calling it a threat to basic principle of universal access to health care in Canada.

By Tonda MacCharlesOttawa Bureau

Tue., Jan. 18, 20223 min. read

Article was updated 9 hrs ago

OTTAWA—NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has condemned Quebec’s plan to slap a charge or tax on unvaccinated persons, calling it a threat to the basic principle of universal access to health care in Canada.

In his first news conference of the new year, Singh told reporters he opposes what’s been called an “unvaxxed tax” proposed by the Quebec provincial government because he views it as starting down a “slippery slope” towards eroding a health system that provides medically necessary health care to all Canadians regardless of ability to pay.

Singh added his voice to that of the other federal leaders who have flagged concerns about François Legault’s government’s proposal to levy a “significant” health “contribution” charge on the unvaccinated given the heavy burden they are putting on a health system buckling under the weight of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wants further details, but expressed that any charge must not violate the Canada Health Act guarantees of universal access.

Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who staunchly backs provincial jurisdiction in health care, likewise opposed any plan to “tax and target” the unvaccinated. He suggested it wouldn’t work to drive up vaccination rates.

Days after the NDP’s health critic Don Davies said the party’s position would be discussed and decided at caucus, Singh outlined his opposition.

He said Canadians already pay taxes to ensure they have access to health services, and said he is “deeply concerned” about any proposal to charge a dedicated fee to unvaccinated persons, saying it would start “down the path” and “undermine the universality” of the Canadian health-care system.

In the face of cancelled surgeries for patients with cancer or other serious health conditions, Singh said he understands Canadians are “frustrated” by those who resist the COVID-19 vaccines, given the unvaccinated represent far and away the majority of people hospitalized and treated in critical care for severe COVID illness.

Instead, he said the NDP supports unspecified measures to encourage unvaccinated persons to get the shot, although he could not identify any new kinds of incentives to achieve that goal, other than pointing to the vaccine mandates the NDP has already supported.

But Singh laid much of the blame for the burden on the health system at the feet of the federal government, saying it needs to provide the kind of sustainable long-term funding provinces demand “now” and not after the pandemic. The provinces want a federal infusion of $78 billion to the annual federal health transfer, with no strings attached.

And the NDP leader said the pressure on “desperate” and “burned-out” front-line health care workers could be eased if Ottawa accelerated immigration status approvals for what he said are “hundreds” of internationally trained nurses and nurse practitioners who are “qualified” already to work in Canada but face bureaucratic delays.

According to the University of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 vaccination tracker that the federal government also relies on, nearly 82 per cent of eligible Canadians, or those at least five years old, are fully vaccinated.

It also shows 10,402 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized across Canada today, with 1,152 in critical care.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says its most recent data shows the unvaccinated made up nearly 80 per cent of hospitalized cases, and 75 per cent of COVID-related deaths as of Dec. 25.

Singh said the ongoing pandemic management and health care will be among the NDP’s top priorities for the new parliamentary session, and repeated the party’s call to eliminate private for-profit care in the long-term-care sector.


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