Politics Briefing: Quebec announces a 'significant' financial penalty for residents who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,
Quebec is going to start imposing a “health care contribution” on adults who refuse to get vaccinated for COVID-19, the province’s Premier said Tuesday.
François Legault announced the measure as he spoke at a news conference on the resignation, this week, of Quebec’s high-profile Public Health Director, Horacio Arruda. The Premier said the cost will apply to Quebeckers who do not get a first dose.
Mr. Legault said his government is working through the legalities and logistics of the measure, which he described as a “health care contribution.”
“As to the amount, we want a significant amount. Fifty dollars or $100 is not significant, but we have yet to set an amount,” said the Premier.
Mr. Legault said Quebeckers are becoming exasperated with the 10 per cent of the population refusing to be vaccinated even though they have no medical issue to justify their decision.
“Right now , these people, they put a very important burden on our health care network, and I think it’s normal that the majority of the population is asking that there be a consequence,” he said.
He said the unvaccinated account for 50 per cent of the people in intensive care and they are putting an undue burden on health care.
Quebec is facing the consequences of a surge in COVID-19 cases linked to the more transmissible Omicron variant.
On Tuesday, Quebec reported 62 additional deaths linked to COVID-19, meaning 12,028 people have been killed by the novel coronavirus, the most among provinces and territories. Hospitalizations linked to the virus rose by 188 to 2,742.
Dr. Arruda’s replacement said it was too soon to comment on the health care contribution measure.
“I will let the exercise unfold,” said Luc Boileau, who has been president of the l’Institut national d’excellence en santé et services sociaux, which promotes clinical excellence and the efficient use of resources in the health and social services sector.
He added that he will wait to see if the science supports the measure, and that he has other more pressing concerns to consider.
In a resignation letter dated Monday, Dr. Arruda wrote that his office had offered public-health opinions and recommendations amid uncertainty and based on the best available knowledge and various expert opinions. However, he acknowledged there was a “certain erosion” in public support for health measures. There’s a story here on his exit.
“I think that he did excellent work for 22 months,” said Mr. Legault, adding he hoped Dr. Arruda would be available for advice after taking a rest.
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TODAY’S HEADLINES
WARNING FROM CANADA’S SPY AGENCY – For the first time, Canada’s spy agency is warning individual MPs and senators from all major parties about influence operations being carried out by China and other adversarial states. Story here.
HEALTH AGENCY DID NOT SEEK DATA ADVICE: PRIVACY COMMISSIONER – The Office of the Privacy Commissioner says the Public Health Agency of Canada did not seek its guidance before gathering location data from millions of mobile phones, which the agency has used to analyze travel patterns and inform its policy and messaging during the pandemic. Story here.
PRIME MINISTER AND PREMIERS HOLD TALKS – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s premiers spoke Monday about the federal government’s plan to distribute rapid tests and the possibility of additional military support for struggling health care systems, with leaders describing a productive meeting. Story here from CBC. The readout of the meeting from the Prime Minister’s Office is here.
TALKS LOOMING ON PEI POTATO DISPUTE – Canadian and U.S. officials are scheduled to meet this week to see if progress can be made to end a dispute that resulted in Canada suspending all shipments of potatoes to the United States from Prince Edward Island. Story here from CBC.
COVID-19 CASES RAISE ALARM AMONG MANITOBA FIRST NATIONS – A growing number of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba has First Nations in the province worried that the virus will overwhelm their communities, but one Grand Chief says military assistance is not necessary yet. Story here.
KENNEY DENOUCES HARASSMENT OF CALGARY MAYOR – Public officials, including Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, are condemning the actions of anti-vaccine protesters who targeted Mayor Jyoti Gondek’s home over the past weekend. Official estimates suggest 35 to 40 people assembled on the sidewalk and street adjacent to Ms. Gondek’s house, holding placards and chanting slogans. On social media, Mr. Kenney wrote, “This is just wrong.” Story here from The Calgary Herald.
THIS AND THAT
The House of Commons has adjourned until Jan. 31 at 11 a.m. ET.
CULTURAL SUMMIT POSTPONED – The Canadian Heritage Department has postponed a planned summit on challenges facing Canadian artists and cultural workers until public-health measures allow for face-to-face meetings. The gathering was scheduled for Jan. 31 until Feb. 1. “We will continue to stand together and hold the summit in person, as planned, as soon as the time is right and it is safe to do so,” Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement. “At that time, we can all reflect on the post-COVID recovery and long-term competitiveness of Canada’s arts sector.”
ANGUS ON COBALT – NDP MP Charlie Angus has his eighth book coming out next month, and it deals with a subject close to home for the Timmins-James Bay member. Mr. Angus, an MP since 2004, is writing about the history of extracting the metal cobalt from the Northern Ontario town of Cobalt where he lives. It’s all covered in Cobalt: Cradle of the Demon Metals, Birth of a Mining Superpower, which is being published by House of Anansi. The 336-page work is about the metal that gives the town its name, and how it changed the trajectory of development in Ontario. Publishers Weekly, the international news website of book publishing and bookselling, calls Mr. Angus’s new book a “harrowing history [of] the damaging legacy of resource extraction in his country,” and an “immersive history.” In an e-mail exchange, Mr. Angus said he has been working on the new book since finishing his last book, Children of the Broken Treaty, in 2015. Asked how he finds the time for book projects, he wrote, “The fact is I am always working on research projects and historical digging. It’s how I balance out the intensity and weirdness of politics.”
TED BYFIELD REMEMBERED – Peter Shawn Taylor writes here on the life of influential Alberta Report publisher Ted Byfield, who gave voice to a nascent Reform party.
RICHARD PATTEN – Former Ottawa Centre MPP Richard Patten is remembered as an energetic community builder for his 15 years in the Ontario legislature. He died Dec. 30, at the age of 79. Obituary here from The Ottawa Citizen.
THE DECIBEL – On Tuesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Caitlin Thompson, co-founder of Racquet and publisher of Racquet Magazine, a print quarterly on the culture of tennis, talks about the case of Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic. The Australian Open granted him a medical exemption that would allow him to compete, but when he attempted to enter the country on Jan. 6, he was detained at the border. He was released on Monday, but his future at the tennis tournament remains uncertain. Ms. Thompson explains why Djokovic was detained, and what makes him such a polarizing figure in the tennis world, and why this may not be the end of the story. The Decibel is here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Private meetings in Ottawa. And the Prime Minister was scheduled to speak with the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
LEADERS
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole delivered remarks at a Yarmouth, Bridgewater, and Annapolis Valley chambers of commerce event.
PUBLIC OPINION
LOCKDOWN SUPPORT – A new poll suggests a slim majority of Canadians support the latest round of lockdowns and other government-imposed restrictions as the Omicron variant continue to fuel an explosion in new COVID-19 infections. Story here.
OPINION
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how a government that misses Step One in transparency sparks a tizzy about `surveillance’: ”There is a high level of mistrust around government data collection, but most people probably give data on their movements to traffic-map apps such as Google Maps or Waze. PHAC had to get the data from a phone company. Anonymized data such as this is regularly used by economists and other academics to provide important insights. Governments, which have long formulated public policy by relying on assumptions about the impact of their measures, could presumably do a lot better if they could base choices on solid evidence drawn from real-world data. Surely there is a way to do that without raising the spectre of Big Brother watching us. But PHAC did not do it the right way. You would think that after a year of seeing simple health messages struggle against conspiracy theories about masks and vaccinations, the agency would get it.”
Thomas Mulcair (CTV News.ca) on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau starting to apply the French President Emmanuel Macron formula: “The contrast between Trudeau’s Health Minister and Conservative Leader O’Toole couldn’t be sharper. It also makes it abundantly clear that politics is still playing a key role in the management of what should exclusively be a health issue. [Health Minister Jean-Yves] Duclos is too smart and experienced not to know that obligatory vaccination is a non-starter. You’d have to be able to enforce it. With what resources? The Army? Duclos was simply redrawing the ideological line in the sand with their principal opponent. His subtext: We’re willing to do everything that we can to end this thing, O’Toole would make it worse.”
Sarath Peiris (Saskatoon StarPhoenix) on Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe steering the province into uncharted waters: “Trying to get through the COVID-19 pandemic with Premier Scott Moe is like finding yourself in a storm-tossed boat at night with a helmsman who refuses to heed navigation instruments as he relies instead on a buddy yelling out directions based on his “gut feel.” It didn’t take the Premier more than a few months after the pandemic’s 2020 arrival to decide that – evidence-based advice from doctors, epidemiologists and other experts be damned – he would forge ahead by focusing on those who touted prioritizing economic health above all.”
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