Quebec Premier François Legault is abandoning his government’s controversial plan to tax Quebecers who have chosen not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Legault made the announcement at a press conference on Tuesday. It included a further relaxing of restrictions, including the long-awaited reopening of gyms.
Legault had announced his intention to tax the unvaccinated on Jan. 11, making Quebec only the second jurisdiction in the Western world to impose financial penalties on unvaccinated people 14 years old and older. Legault’s announcement was met with fierce blowback from civil liberties groups and opposition parties.
According to sources, the charge would have been between $100 and $800.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said it was going to take legal action against the proposed tax, with president John Carpay saying the tax was “an egregious violation of the Charter rights of Quebecers and an affront to equality which Canada was, in times past, known for.”
Quebec’s opposition parties also opposed the tax for the unvaccinated, including the Conservative Party of Quebec, whose leader Eric Duhaime called Legault’s plan divisive.
Duhaime also commented on the news that Legault would drop his controversial tax, saying in a French tweet, “The CAQ’s amateurism at its best. I hate to say ‘I told you so’, but I told you so…”
Quebec’s top doctor Luc Boileau also refused to provide comment on the tax, stating, “this is an economic measure, and I prefer not to comment on economic measures. That is not the expertise of Public Health.”
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) also welcomed the news that Legault was backing off on the health tax.
“This is good news but all Canadians need to continue uniting against the vax tax to make sure it doesn’t pop up in other provinces,” said CTF federal director Franco Terrazzano. “Today some politicians will want the unvaccinated to pay more, but who will they go after next? This new tax would open up the floodgates to a raft of new taxes and that’s why all Canadians need to keep up the pressure and push back against the vax tax.”
However, even with the tax being dropped, Quebec’s unvaccinated population will still be subject to some of the harshest restrictions in the world.
Last week, the Quebec government banned unvaccinated people from large stores like Walmart and Costco, despite these stores selling groceries. The unvaccinated are also banned from government-run liquor and cannabis stores.
The harsh restrictions might explain why this weekend’s Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa had a large number of Quebecers present, with some telling True North they think Quebec’s restrictions are tyrannical.
The news that Legault is dropping his tax for the unvaccinated could signal a shift in Canada’s response to COVID-19, amid mass nationwide protests and a new Angus Reid poll showing the majority of Canadians now want to see all COVID-19 restrictions to end.