Alberta Won’t Tax the Unvaccinated: Kenney

Alberta Won’t Tax the Unvaccinated: Kenney
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks at a press conference in Edmonton on Sept. 21, 2021. (The Canadian Press/Jason Franson)
Andrew Chen
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the province will not follow Quebec’s footsteps in imposing a financial penalty on residents who did not receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Kenney said it is unfair to make the unvaccinated pay extra even if data shows they put a greater burden on the health care system compared to the vaccinated population.

“If we go down that road, we are completely rubbishing the whole principle of universality of health care, which is why Alberta absolutely will not follow the decision of Quebec,” Kenney said on Jan. 11 in a Facebook town-hall meeting.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced earlier that day that the province will make unvaccinated adult residents pay a “significant” financial penalty, making it the first jurisdiction in Canada to do so.

Kenney said while the unvaccinated are taking up more hospital and intensive care beds, levying a fee would be akin to making a smoker pay more for lung cancer treatment or charging a high-risk skier for being injured and airlifted out of the back-country.

“There is a larger and deeper principle here, which is we have a universal health-care system,” Kenney said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Jan. 11 that he wants to see more details before passing judgment on Quebec’s plan, but added that the province has given assurances that its policy will not violate the Canada Health Act.

Alberta is currently fighting a rise in COVID-19 cases, amid the highly-contagious Omicron variant. The province added 6,789 new COVID-19 cases on Jan. 11 with 748 people in hospital, including 82 in critical care.

Students from kindergarten to Grade 12 in Alberta resumed in-person learning this week after Kenney promised extra masks and millions more rapid tests for schools.

The premier said last week that on top of the four million rapid tests from the federal government, the province will receive another 10 million from private suppliers, with one million tests already arrived and three million more to arrive each week after.

However, provincial Health Minister Jason Copping said on Jan. 12 only 500,000 of the promised federal tests have arrived, and the balance of the 10 million from private suppliers was delayed due to global supply chain disruptions.

Copping wrote on Twitter that as of Jan. 11, the province has shipped nearly 1.7 million rapid tests to schools, which is about 40 percent of the initial commitment of 4.3 million tests for this week.

“We’re working to confirm deliveries by the day, including 4.8 million tests that we’ve directly procured that we hope to receive this week, which will go to schools and AHS (for health care workers),” he said.

The Canadian Press contributed to this article.