Just over 60 per cent of Canadians recently polled are on board with the implementation of fines for the unvaccinated, such as a healthcare tax, similar to the one Québec Premier François Legault announced on Tuesday.
Legault said that adults in Québec who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 would be forced to pay a “significant” financial penalty. The fine would be the first of its kind in Canada and apply to unvaccinated residents who don’t have a medical exemption.
A new poll published on Wednesday by Maru Public Opinion indicates that most Canadians agree the unvaccinated should be penalized in some form.
“The release of the results arrive as Québec Premier François Legault announced that the province would be imposing a health tax on Québecers who refuse to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks,” Executive Vice-President John Wright said.
“The results of a national survey released today by Maru Public Opinion finds that a majority (60 per cent) of Canadians support some type of fine that could amount to a healthcare surcharge for those who choose to remain unvaccinated.”
The survey’s results show that four in ten (38 per cent) of Canadians admit to knowing someone in their family or circle of friends who has contracted the COVID-19 virus in the last 10 days.
“Based on the latest sounding, those most likely to know someone who has recently acquired COVID (38 per cent) hail from Ontario (42 per cent), followed by those living in Manitoba/Saskatchewan (39 per cent), Québec (38 per cent), Atlantic Canada (36 per cent), Alberta (34 per cent), and British Columbia (31 per cent).”
A preceding poll by Maru Public Opinion released on Jan. 3 found that a majority (56 per cent) of Canadians were concerned with contracting the Omicron variant and with 1-in-10 (11 per cent) knowing of someone among their family or circle of friends who have contracted the virus.
That same poll concluded that 54 per cent of respondents believed the virus is being underestimated and a majority (55 per cent) agree that vaccines — or people’s immunity — will protect them.
They surveyed just over 1,500 people on Dec. 20.
The poll results arrive on the heels of Canada’s health minister saying he expects the country to reach a time in the COVID-19 pandemic when provinces consider implementing a broader vaccine mandate to counter rising cases.
Jean-Yves Duclos told a COVID-19 briefing on Friday that such a measure was not currently being contemplated in Canada, but his opinion was that the country would get there at some point.
“We know that COVID-19 will be with us for many more months to come, maybe even many years,” he said.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney rejected the idea of mandatory vaccinations in a social media post shortly after Duclos’s press conference. While still encouraging people to get vaccinated, Kenney said it’s a personal choice.
“Alberta’s legislature removed the power of mandatory vaccination from the Public Health Act last year and will not revisit that decision, period,” he wrote on Twitter Friday.
Conversely, a majority (56 per cent) of respondents to a poll conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) agree governments are making the right decisions to limit the spread of Omicron and keep the health system from being overrun.
Another 31 per cent said they did not believe Omicron poses a severe health risk to most of those infected and that governments should lift public health restrictions and allow Canadians to live their lives.
Several provinces say the Omicron-fueled wave threatens to overwhelm their healthcare systems, with hospitalizations nearing or reaching record highs in Québec, Ontario and New Brunswick.
The accelerated spread of the Omicron variant — initially detected in South Africa — has led to staff shortages across Canada, affecting hospitals, long-term care facilities and other essential services.
Ontario reported 3,220 hospitalizations on Tuesday, with 477 patients in the ICU — 250 of them on ventilators. The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) confirmed 80 adults were admitted to the hospital the previous day — the highest number of admissions so far during the pandemic.
With files from Laura Osman of The Canadian Press