OTTAWA — Conservative leader Erin O’Toole says she opposes Quebec’s plan to “tax and target” those unconvinced against COVID-19 while it respects provincial jurisdiction.

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The Tory leader made his position on Premier Francois Legault’s proposal during a Facebook Live event late Thursday. Some of his lawmakers had already taken to social media to condemn the proposal as discriminatory, immoral and punishing low-income people.

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Earlier in the week Legault announced that unvaccinated adult Quebecers who do not have a medical exemption can expect to start paying “significant” financial penalties.

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The premier said the measure was needed because nearly half of patients in intensive care have not been vaccinated, even though about 10 percent of adult Quebecers have not been immunized against COVID-19.

O’Toole, who encourages vaccination but opposes vaccine mandates,

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Called the proposal unfair, predicting that it would not persuade those who are hesitant to take a shot at the end to roll up their sleeves.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday he needed more information on Quebec’s plan before he could say whether he supported it. The federal New Democrats also took no stance on the plan.

Trudeau said the province has indicated it would comply with the Canada Health Act, which governs the country’s universally funded health care system that provinces deliver.

O’Toole, on the other hand, said Quebec’s proposal does not align with Canada’s approach to health care and is “easier to disappoint 85 percent of the population compared to another 10 or 15 percent of the population”.

“Vaccinators tend to be dismayed by what they see as a small group of people holding the country back,” O’Toole said.

He blamed Trudeau’s failure to provide rapid antigen tests and better access to personal protective equipment for provinces forced to reimpose restrictive public health measures, despite Canada’s highly vaccinated population.

Trudeau, for his part, has criticized O’Toole for saying people who live without vaccinations should be allowed to get tested faster rather than lose their jobs or be put on leave under mandatory vaccination policies .

O’Toole is not the first conservative leader to express disapproval of Quebec’s plan. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney did so earlier this week, both ruling out the possibility of their provinces introducing a similar punishment for unvaccinated residents.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 13, 2021