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O'Toole says he opposes Quebec's plan to 'tax and target' the unvaccinated

By The Canadian Press

Published 2:48 PST, Thu January 13, 2022

Last Updated: 3:23 PST, Thu January 13, 2022

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says while he respects provincial jurisdiction, he opposes Quebec's plan "to tax and target" those who are unvaccinated against COVID-19.

The Tory leader made his position known on Premier François Legault's proposal during a Facebook Live event late Thursday. Some of his MPs had already taken to social media to condemn the proposal as discriminatory, unethical and punishing to low-income earners. 

Earlier in the week Legault announced that unvaccinated adult Quebecers who don't have a medical exemption can expect to start paying a "significant” financial penalty. 

The premier said the measure was needed because around half of the patients in intensive care are unvaccinated even though only about 10 per cent of adult Quebecers are not immunized against COVID-19. 

O'Toole, who encourages vaccinations but opposes vaccine mandates,  called the proposal unfair, predicting that it won't persuade those who are hesitant to get a shot to finally roll up their sleeves. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that he needed more details about Quebec's plan before he could say whether he supports it.The federal New Democrats also haven't taken a stance on the plan. 

Trudeau said the province has signalled it will follow the Canada Health Act, which governs the country's universally funded health-care system that provinces deliver. 

O'Toole on the other hand said Quebec's proposal doesn't align with Canada's approach to health care and that it's easy to "turn a frustrated 85 per cent of the population against 10 or 15 other per cent of the population."

"Vaccinated people get frustrated with what they perceive as a small group of people holding back the country," O'Toole said. 

He blamed Trudeau's failure to provide better access to rapid antigen tests and personal protective equipment for compelling provinces to reimpose restrictive public health measures, despite Canada's highly vaccinated population.

Trudeau, for his part, has criticized O'Toole for saying those who remain unvaccinated should be allowed to take rapid tests, rather than lose their jobs or be put on leave under mandatory vaccination policies.

– Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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