Premier Jason Kenney says Albertans do not need to worry about a no vax tax.
“We will not be putting in a COVID tax,” said Kenney in a Facebook Live question and answer session on Tuesday.
Quebec Premier François Legault said on Tuesday that adult Quebecers who refuse to be vaccinated will be forced to pay a “significant” financial penalty.
“I respect the premier although I disagree with him on this issue pretty strongly,” said Kenney, in response to a question from a viewer.
The province continues to urge vaccinations because unvaccinated people are far more likely to end up in hospital, ICUs or die because of COVID the principle of a universal health care system, which is enshrined in law, is to offer necessary care free of cost, he added.
“I think the idea of starting to impose specified or variated taxes or charges based on their personal choices or health condition is a violation of that higher Canadian principle of universal access.
“If we start going down that road then why would we not have a tax on people who are overweight or who smoke.
“What about drunk drivers? They make terrible choices, deadly choices in some cases. But when a drunk driver shows up at the emergency ward we don’t ask them for a credit card number or charge them extra.”
Likewise, those who engage in dangerous pursuits, such as rock climbing or back country skiing, are not charged extra if they require medical help.
“I think if we go down that road we are completely rubbishing the whole pinciple of universality of health care, which is why Alberta will absolutely not follow the decision of Quebec.”
That unvaccinated people put a strain on the health care system and have led to hundreds of surgery cancellations is not in doubt, Kenney said.
In the last 120 days, 908 unvaccinated people per 100,000 have ended up in hospital compared with 55 per 100,000 for vaccinated Albertans.
“That means the hospitalization rate for unvaccinated people in Albertan is 17 times higher than for those who took the vaccine.”
The gap is even greater in intensive care units where the unvaccinated rate is 212 per 100,000 people compared with 5.5 per 100,000 for the vaccinated — meaning unvaccinated people are 39 times more likely to end up in ICUs.
Unvaccinated Albertans are also 16 times more likely to die from COVID than those who got their shots.
Quebec’s penalty would be the first of its kind in Canada and would apply to unvaccinated residents who don’t have a medical exemption, said Legault. The “health contribution” is necessary, he said, because about 10 per cent of adult Quebecers aren’t vaccinated, but they represent about half of all patients in intensive care.
“I think right now, it’s a question of fairness for the 90 per cent of the population who made some sacrifices — I think we owe them this kind of measure,” Legault said, adding that the unvaccinated should be forced to pay for the extra burden they are placing on the health-care system.
The premier’s big news came with few details, however. The amount of the penalty is yet to be determined, as is how and when it would be applied.
— With files from The Canadian Press