A Liberal MP who works as a doctor says he favors making unvaccinated Canadians pay some kind of special tax – and he believes other members of his party agree.
“We already have taxes on tobacco. We have taxes on alcohol, which exist for similar reasons because people who use these products are more likely to end up in hospital,” said MP Marcus Powlowski during a round table with other MPs broadcast on Saturday. on CBC The House. “And as a result, we’re all going to have to pay for their hospitalization.”
Quebec Premier Francois Legault this week floated the idea of imposing a substantial tax on the unvaccinated as hospital admissions in that province continued to soar.
New federal modeling released on Friday warned that the Omicron variant could lead to record levels of hospitalizations in the coming weeks.
The tax proposal is controversial. Opponents warn it could run counter to the Canada Health Act’s principles of universality and accessibility.
But Legault’s idea also has its supporters.
Alberta resident Corina Heppner’s young son Rossy was born with a rare neuromuscular disease that severely curved his spine.
Surgery that would allow him to use his arms for the first time was scheduled for November and then canceled due to pandemic-induced systemic constraints. It has not been rescheduled.
“You prepare your child – we say to him: ‘You are going to strengthen your arms, you are going to be able to move your arm.’ And then it was, ‘OK, well, you can’t do that.’ So he was very, very upset,” she said. The House. “His life would have changed drastically in that moment.”
Heppner said she wants those who still refuse to get vaccinated to understand that their decision has the potential to affect many others.
17:01Widening the vax gap
“People being taxed for not being vaccinated is a very good idea. Smokers are being taxed. It’s not a new idea,” she said. “I think at this point we need to do everything we can to reach some people.”
“We should do this because, really, if you look at the numbers, the majority of people admitted to hospital, intensive care units, are unvaccinated,” he said. “So anything we can do to increase the number of people vaccinated is certainly, in my mind and I think in the spirit of the party, desirable.”
His government’s position is less clear. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters this week he wanted to see more details before commenting on whether Quebec’s proposal might work.
What is clear is that the number of positive cases is reaching record highs across Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada said Friday that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has quadrupled since December, while the number of critical cases has doubled to a daily average of 884 patients.
Mandates don’t ‘produce the results we want’ — MP
Conservative MP Stephen Ellis, a family physician, was one of the medical leaders in Nova Scotia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic before being elected last fall. He said governments are using bigger and bigger sticks to try to force people to get vaccinated.
“I don’t know of any carrots that we’ve used here other than to say, of course, if you get vaccinated, your risk of getting sick is much lower,” he said during a The House round table. “All we’ve done is give people mandates and clearly that’s not producing the results we want.”
NDP Health Critic Don Davies said he also doubts taxing the unvaccinated will work. He pointed out that some Canadians do not have the same access to vaccines as others.
“So I think the best way to go is that we have to continue giving appropriate information, educating and encouraging vaccination,” he said. “And I think that’s a more productive way to go in the short term.”
Both Davies and Ellis said more needs to be done to distinguish between those who are vaccine hesitant and those who refuse to be vaccinated. Ellis said he saw it in his own practice.
“Our job is to build trust”
“When someone came into the office and they had significant issues or hesitations about … vaccines or treatment, our job there is to build trust, build a relationship, and then encourage those people to develop that behavior that we want to see changed,” Ellis said.
“And when we do that in a kind and caring way, in a way that holds hands, in a way that shows those people that we respect them and that we’re content experts as well, then we know that the probability of change increases significantly.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said he wanted unvaccinated people to be housed.
WATCH: Conservative leader accuses Trudeau government of ‘normalizing’ lockdowns
But frustrations are growing as case numbers soar and hospitals struggle to cope with staff fatigue and burnout.
The NDP’s Davies said everyone can sympathize with patients who have had surgeries and other medical procedures postponed because beds are being taken by people who have ignored the advice of public health officials.
“But I also think we need to base our policy positions on evidence and science, and the NDP is interested in what works,” he said.
“You know, we like to think of ourselves as the health care party. We believe passionately in universal access to care without financial barriers, and we guard this principle very carefully. So, you know, the Quebec proposal is new. It is unprecedented. There is no real evidence of the impact this might have.
For now, the Quebec proposal for a tax on the unvaccinated is just a prescription waiting to be filled.