, 01.12.2022 03:26 PM

My latest: and, yes, I’m still at the hospital

A health care tax.

Hmmm.

I am writing those ominous words sitting in a hospital emergency ward. Belleville General, emergency bed three.  

A few days ago, I was biking in minus-twenty weather – I go out every day, year round – and wiped out.

Smashed my head, hard, on the ice that had – until that point – hidden it’s presence. Did you know that the human head bounces when it hits hard stuff? Mine did. Bang, bang.

I was wearing a helmet, which probably saved my life, but it didn’t mean no problems. Problems aplenty lay ahead.

Felt dazed. Didn’t black out. Bike mirror broken, bike scraped up.   Because I’m a stubborn Irish bastard, I kept riding a bit, on asphalt. Then home.

The trouble started the next morning. Headaches, out of it (more than usual), and a lot of vision gone in my right eye.

I didn’t want to end up here in emerg, but my doc wanted to rule out a “brain bleed,” quote unquote. Despite being a stubborn Irish bastard, I relented.

So began my journey through an overburdened, overworked health care system. And you know why. We all know why. Underfunded by Ottawa, overwhelmed by a virus that has cancelled the future.

Sitting on assorted waiting-room chairs, I (naturally) did what I wasn’t supposed to do, and read the online response to Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s latest pandemic gambit: taxing the unvaccinated.

Punitive or proper? Unfair, unwise? Or right and reasonable?

Every other columnist in Canada has taken a whack at Legault’s plan, by now. But no one, to my knowledge, has done it from the perspective of a hospital bed. So here goes.

Legault is assisted by public opinion. Since Summer 2021, give or take, Canadians have overwhelmingly favored the vaccination side.

A considerable number, in fact, have favored actually punishing those who choose to be unvaccinated. Like, really punishing them: denying them employment, denying them mobility, denying them benefits – including health care benefits.

Legault is a politician, a popular one, and he’s seen the polling. His tax-the-unvaxxed policy will be popular.  Count on it.

Before heading to the hospital  I talked to a former Prime Minister about it. We agreed it won’t violate the Canada Health Act – various provinces have assessed health care premiums in the past. In my home province of Alberta, for example, I was denied health care because I – a penniless law student – hadn’t paid my premiums. Healthy or not.

Other jurisdictions in the world have been tougher than Legault. Austria plans to hit up the unvaccinated with penalties in excess of $20,000 a year. Greece has said it’ll do likewise, albeit for a smaller price tag.

So Legault has public opinion and precedent on his side. But what about constitutionality and fairness, which are intricately related?

Constitutions are documents which are all about equality – about ensuring all citizens are equal. Legault’s policy clearly (and proudly) discriminates against an identifiable group.

It doesn’t, or shouldn’t, matter that the group in question is stupid and reckless. Constitutions are arguably crafted to protect the reckless as well as the virtuous. Litigation is inevitable. A predictable result isn’t.

And what about fairness? Is Legault being unfair? Perhaps, but no more than the ten per cent of unvaccinated Quebeckers who are occupying 50 per cent of the province’s hospital beds. They’re being unfair, too. They’re putting their fellow citizens at risk.

From my perspective in emergency room three, I think Legault will get away with it. Mainly for one reason: because it’ll be popular.

People are tired of this. They’re mad, they’re sad, they’re fed up. They will vote for any politician who can promise them a speedy end to the pandemic.

And Francois Legault knows it.

53 Comments

  1. richard Hofer says:

    Get well soon. Richard Hofer

  2. Innocent III says:

    Happy New Year, Chief Magistrate.
    The implications of the Legault question are beyond my constitutional competence although I am certainly watching with interest.
    That said, I was very sorry to learn of your recent mishap and I hope that you will soon be released with a clean (or cleanish) bill of health. Please stay safe, warm and well and always be mindful of black ice. I’m playing PIL for you right now (‘Album’). ‘May the road rise…’ more gently next time.

  3. Max Heiliger says:

    “,,,unvaccinated Quebeckers who are occupying 50 per cent of the province’s hospital beds… They’re putting their fellow citizens at risk.”
    So… VACCINATED Quebeckers are occupying 50 per cent of the province’s hospital beds. And the VACCINATED are at risk.
    To paraphrase Bill Clinton, Bidenesquely: “It’s the VACCINES, folks.”

    • Sean says:

      Holy fuck already…

      THE STATS YOU POST OBVIOUSLY SHOW THAT VACCINATIONS WORK!!! 85% of Quebecers got the shot… If the shot made no difference, the hospital intake would be 85/15, reflective of the population.

      To paraphrase Tony Soprano: keep your comments to the McGuire Sisters or SHUT THE FUCK UP!

    • Derek Pearce says:

      He didn’t say 50% of those in the hospital *with Covid* are vaccinated you dolt– god you anti-vax nuts only see what you want to see. If a higher percentage of the population wasn’t vaxxed then hospitals would be EVEN MORE overburdened than they currently are.
      Anyhow, hope you make a speedy recovery WK.

  4. Innocent IIII says:

    Very sorry to learn of your mishap, Chief Magistrate. I am playing PIL’s ‘Album’ with you in mind. In future, ‘May the road rise to you…’ in a kinder, gentler fashion. Please get well soon.

  5. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    It really goes without being said but what the hell, all of your readers are pulling for you and wish you a speedy recovery! God was definitely riding co-pilot with you on this one.

  6. Sean says:

    I say tax cuts only for the fully vaxxed.

  7. Phil in London says:

    Yikes concussion symptoms. My wife had an awful fall a few years back and yess the human head can bounce. I do hope you get the best of care. Godspeed.

    On to health care and Legault tax. I’ve been in the hospital a ton the past 13 months. I’ve been so lucky timing wise vs strictest of lockdown. I’m all for the tax. (Some may be near the point of being comfortable with hangings)

    There is only one way to describe these people who refuse they are selfish bastards.

    Far past time – they need to step up and be human about caring about the rest of us.

    O’Toole, Ford others take note. Being champions of individual freedom has to have a line. This one is obvious as the wall Dumb Donald wanted to build. Do the right thing and piss off the anti vax crowd.

    • Phil,

      O’Toole, Ford and Kenney wouldn’t know a common sense good piece of political strategy if it hit all of them straight across the face. They are more than willing enablers and the message being sent out by these people is crystal clear: we don’t care one shit if a person has not taken all health preventive measures including shots and then nonetheless passed on a COVID-19 variant to another person. These three idiots seemingly are just fine with that. Remember that distinctly next time you make it to the voting booth, assuming some moronic asshole anti-vaxxer hasn’t killed you off first.

      • Phil in London says:

        Ron,
        Preaching to the choir here.
        I am holding out that Ford will come to realize the tax is the right thing to do. He will make a decisive decision as soon as a few days have passed from his never on my watch announcement. This is a strange Ford phenomenon to flip flop as soon as he checks the polling data.
        Kenney is committed to ideology at all cost in a province where that ideology has been well supported.
        O’Toole, only thing I can say he is the best of a bad lot including the two who missed an open net to win Shear and McKay

      • Doug says:

        Several points:
        1) vaccincation does not prevent transmission of COVID to other people. The only risk (and a big one) posed by the unvaccinated is occupying hospital capacity

        2)as above, vaccination does not reduce the evolution of new variants

        3) any fees or taxes targeting the unvaccinated are illegal and politicians know that. This may be a game to threaten a tax to encourage vaccination

        4) politicians, political strategists etc. who are turning vaccination into “the” wedge issue are the real enemy

  8. Tony Miller says:

    First, off, sorry to hear about your accident. That seems damn scary. Second, I agree with the health tax on the unvaxxed and wish we had one here in Ontario. I think the unvaxxed are looking (in many cases) for a way out of the box they’ve put themselves in and a tax, a passport, a “no booze for you” dictate…all of the above will move the needle. “Hey, I didn’t want a jab, but they made me!” Lastly, it would be interesting to discuss not just the money the feds give the provinces for healthcare (no question they should be giving more) but at the same time looking at whether those provinces are actually USING the money. Provinces cut healthcare services all the time and we just blame the feds. But Provincial governments need to spend it all. When they don’t, they should get taken to the woodshed too. Speedy recovery. T

  9. Steve says:

    A very slippery slope. If this tax on the unvaccinated stands, where does it end? I am fully vaccinated but totally disagree with this divisive and mean spirited attack on Canadian citizens. Basically what they are saying is if you don’t agree with government decrees or policy, you will be hit with a punitive tax to bring you around to the government’s way of thinking. I’m sure Trudeau is closely monitoring the situation with schemes of future taxes on those who refuse to vote Liberal. Joking. (Kind of).

  10. Best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery my friend. Speaking personally, I’m pretty tired of the anti-vax crowd and the BS they’re peddling. This isn’t some esoteric debate for the chattering classes; the shit has really hit the fan and we need to make tough decisions. Notwithstanding the fact that we are coming up on the second anniversary of this misery, and the Feds and the Provinces still need to up their game, the choices individuals make come with consequences. It is unconscionable that those who have complied with common sense are now faced with hospitals filled with sick unvaccinated patients (which has impacted the ability of the responsible to get health care). I would prioritize who gets treated, and those that made a conscious decision to avoid a vaccination would go to the back of the line.

  11. Westguy says:

    In Alberta, 85 per cent have gotten two doses and five per cent have received no vaccinations. With respect to hospitalizations, prior to Omicron, the stats were heavily skewed toward the unvaccinated but with Omicron, the numbers are balanced a bit. The latest is that 37 per cent in hospital are unvaxxed (57 per cent fully vaxxed and five per cent with one dose).
    So, prior to Omicron, the notion that it was the unvaxxed that are putting an undue strain on the HC system was a lot more accurate than it is now. When I watch the news, it seems all outlets tout the notion that the unvaxxed are the cause of the hospitalization problem but I have yet to see any outlet back that up with current stats.
    My issue with the whole tax the unvaxxed is that it opens the door to differential treatment. Sure, maybe a majority of people support that but could the argument not be made that smokers should be charged more? How about fat people? Those conditions may not be contagious but they certainly do cost the HC system more than a healthy person.

  12. Maureen says:

    I wish you a full recovery.

  13. ANDY JURGEN KAUT says:

    Right up until our PM called antivaxxers, “racists and misogynists”, I’m all for the tax. Also, we’d better tax smokers, drinkers, skydivers etc proportionate to the degree their lifestyles of choice affect their health.

    I’m concerned about the very human beings that are being shunned now. We are to tolerate all, even the insufferably stupid.

    • ANDY JURGEN KAUT says:

      https://nationalpost.com/opinion/rex-murphy-justin-trudeaus-blind-hatred-of-anti-vaxxers

      We keep strange bedfellows, is all. This is dangerous stuff for a PM.

    • Derek Pearce says:

      I’ll raise my hand and admit I’m a filthy smoker (yes I know it’s a disgusting habit and terrible for my health, awful, it’s a struggle, I’ve quit many times but take it up again and currently do smoke, so…) But, do you know how much cigarettes cost? Pretty much $20 a pack now, so we’re being taxed accordingly. Anti-vaxxers should also be taxed accordingly.

      • Ray says:

        So someone who doesn’t smoke, eats properly, exercises regularly, and avoids unnecessary interactions should pay a tax because they choose not to get jabbed?
        You’ve lost your collective minds.

    • Doug says:

      I saw a Liberal Strategist on a political commentary show the other day. That person’s premise was that some of the unvaccinated are also racists, and some are misogynists. By not explicitly calling out the racists and misogynists, the anti-vaxxers are enabling them, in effect menaing that they themselves are racists and misogynists. The guilt by association argument is the lowest form of identity politics, basically the first law of high school: shun those who don’t shun the unpopular. Perhaps Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2 had the right idea, but failed to mention the Political Strategists.

      We don’t tax smokers and drinkers, we tax tabacco and alcohol. Absolutely no legal precident exists to levy differential taxes based on lifestlye.

  14. Pipes says:

    I read part of this post and as soon as you took the focus off of yourself, I stopped reading it. I stopped reading it because, I am your friend and more concerned about your health than Quebec or Omicron right now.
    Sounds like a minor concussion, but what do I know of such things. I hope you are home by now. (PS-that’s why I sold my motorcycle. You encounter a loss of traction and away you go….).

  15. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Boil it all down to this: I, citizen or resident A, want to reduce my chances of transmitting COVID-19 to a third party so I wear a mask, do social distancing and get vaccinated, multiple times if necessary . VS. I, citizen or resident B, who doesn’t care if I pass on COVID-19 to a third party, so I wear a mask only to do groceries or enter a pharmacy and don’t give a shit about social distancing or vaccination.

    Anyone who tries to drawn an equivalence needs seriously to have his or her head examined. God is watching and will ultimately render judgment. Comforting thought that.

    • Paige says:

      “God is watching and will ultimately render judgment. Comforting thought that.” Oh Yeah, the big sky fairy is going to save us all. What a bunch of crap. Although as likely as being saved by the ‘current science that must not be questioned’ Keep on praying and sand all excess lucre to the guy in the golden palace. And wait till next week when the ‘science will be pushing other unquestionable ‘facts’

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        Paige,

        Your highly cynical nature is certainly interesting. You’re so confident now aren’t you. Whatever floats your boat.

        Just in case you didn’t notice, 5,552,502 people are dead in a mostly vaccinated worldwide environment. Want to tell all of us how many would be dead without vaccines and other oral therapies having been developed? Thanks.

        • Paige says:

          Hi Ronald
          I see myself as a cynical optimist, basically, hope for the best but expect the worst. Sometimes I am not clear in my posts, what I was trying to highlight is the ‘belief” in current scientific dogma before the science is tested is as weak as believing in a superior being because someone you know and trust told you to.
          Sure 5.5 million is a lot of dead but in context of 1.8 Billion total pop is a miniscule percentage. In my part of Canada the deaths from opiates far exceed the deaths from covid, yet nobody gives a shit because they aren’t anybody’s granny.
          Respectfully, no one could tell anyone how many would be dead in an alternate situation that cant be tested.
          Science requires scientific method. Challenging, questioning, testing not acceptance of popular theory as opined by bureaucrats and politicians. We all have a responsibility to think for ourselves

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:

            Paige,

            I’m definitely with you on politicians. They generally are too late during public emergencies or more particularly, re: anything important and they know nothing about science and public health on their best day.

            I’m all for thinking for oneself. But in my book, individual decisions have consequences way beyond one’s own actions or inactions or those that affect one’s own family and friends. That’s where my difference of opinion starts with the anti-vaxxers.

  16. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    As for O’Toole and his daily pronouncements of utter nonsense and complete rubbish, he knows where he can go…

    • Douglas W says:

      Ronald,

      Only a matter of time before EOT gets the tap on the shoulder.
      He’s looking worse, by the day.

      Leadership race: disastrous.
      Party will be split between those in favour of the vaccine, and those who want no part of it.

      Political wilderness, perhaps for 40 years: LOL

  17. PJH says:

    7000 plus signed up for their first dose of vaccine the day after Premier Legault’s announcement. I’d say that’s a pretty good motivator….Bravo!, I say….

    Yet my feckless leader still panders to “spreadnecks”….Cue an early leadership review, and take my leader, please….I’m done….

    Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery, Mr. Kinsella……

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      PJH,

      Erin O’Toole is a living, breathing, walking, political death wish…

      Each day he sees it as incumbent upon himself to further bury his leadership by his own words and deeds. Like I said before, the Liberals are laughing so much they’re almost rolling on the floor. They can’t believe their luck. What a dolt with advisers who are even more clueless than O’Toole is and that’s saying something. Caucus needs to act now before this guy tanks the party and hands a majority to Himself. There’s no way in hell I’ll vote CPC or LPC as long as those two pathetic bozos are at the helm.

      • Douglas W says:

        Ronald,

        Pathetic bozos ?

        You’re being generous and far too kind.

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:

          PJH,
          Douglas,

          I came late to this cause having foolishly thought that O’Toole would wise up instead of pandering to a bunch of narcissists who happen to be perfectly destined for The Sociopath People’s Party of Canada, where they collectively will fit in just peachy.

          We may be an army of 3 but we’re winning, one day at a time. Notice all the outrage and righteous defence in comments coming to the leader’s rescue. Makes me want to change our party’s name, albeit temporarily, to The Crickets Party of Canada. LOL. The DOA response on the other side of the party speaks volumes. Only a damned fool would defend O’Toole publicly now.

          • PJH says:

            Anyone who would be caught on camera claiming he was going to shove the PM down a Porta Potty has the political acumen of a newt. His recent statement of “accommodating the unvaccinated” is the latest in a string of flubs, miscues, and generally poor judgement…..It’s time to give the man the heave..

  18. Gilbert says:

    I have a better solution. Instead of dividing people into groups, why not implement user fees? This is fair because oeople will be charged for their use of the health care system.

  19. Craig Cantin says:

    Hope you are back on your bike soon, Warren. Feel better!

  20. Wayne says:

    Frist off, I have both shots at this time and getting booster shot on the 28th. With regards to a tax on people who have not gotten their shot(s), bad idea and only divides the country more. Which to political class love, better we fight each other than pay attention to what they are doing. if implemented, it sets a president that can be used to justify other select taxes, i.e. lets tax everyone who does not purchase a bus pass and take transit as they obviously don’t care about the environment and we are in a climate crisis. Or lets tax people who have kids, they are adding to the population which is also proven to be bad for the environment, over people who get abortions. Yes, my examples are extreme, but this select tax is also an extreme. it is time to put aside the left/right split in this country and unit against all levels of government that continue to split the population for political points.

  21. WTF says:

    I also wiped out and did a header which cracked my helmet. No issue , glad the skull bucket was on.

    My respect to the medical staff across the board for their commitment and ability to work through a sclerotic system we share with one other country. North Korea.

    Regarding Health care: More funding isn’t the issue. Canada spends the second highest per capita/ USA is first. Canada comes 35th in outcomes. Money is not the problem the Canada Health Act needs revamping to reflect the reality we are not getting value for input. Public Private systems provide better outcomes in a myriad of countries one simply needs to look abroad. The balkanization of 12 different systems with the rules and funding set by the Feds has quashed innovation.
    Having Politicians as gatekeepers to determine surgical availability timelines is repugnant.

    When you are discharged perhaps take note of the people in the halls on stretchers waiting for a bed.

    A frank honest discussion to bring Canada into the 21st century is sorely needed .

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      WTF,

      This may be somewhat of a one-off but when my late mother was still at the stage of being Chartwell eligible and living there, we used a private for profit health care practice and frankly, the multiple experiences were somewhat underwhelming, to say the very least — and we were paying relatively big bucks.

      • WTF says:

        Point taken Ronald

        As I mentioned previously, Several countries in Europe but also elsewhere (Singapore, Australia. Japan) with far better results have some sort of public private system, and it costs less. Outcomes far better regarding treatment timelines.

        I have a 91 year old Mom (former nurse) who has been been in the hospital a few times over the past few years and she is horrified at the status quo. She is in expensive independent living in NS and yes, some complaints, (mainly meals).

        Re Public Private. My Doctor’s (GP) practice is a private enterprise, he pays the wages/ rent etc of his practice. Funded publicly.

        When I had a knee problem several years ago I could have waited for diagnosis which required MRI via the public system (over a year) Instead I paid $500 for private, took 2 days. Diagnosis was made shortly thereafter as the Ortho now had the relevant info. BC has subsequently bought all MRI clinics in the province. So next time, Bellingham Washington if I need to……Anybody with the means already avails themselves, typically in the US but Mexico India also.

        Here in BC, a legal case Province VS False creek surgical (private) is winding its way through the courts, Now headed for Supreme court assumedly.

        Unfortunate politicians don’t have the courage to even discuss fixes to a dysfunctional, expensive, poorly performing, archaic system in continuous triage mode. The world have changed dramatically in 60 years, Canadian Health Care hasn’t………….

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:

          WTF,

          Well, in a broken system and no doubt it is, obviously private is the way to go in some specialties and sectors but all people would have to be eligible and part of the cost would have to be paid by the taxpayer. Otherwise, it seemingly is a no-go, politically.

          They keeping saying the solution is to fix the public health care system and yet somehow baby steps are about the best they can muster. Why is that?

          • Ron Benn says:

            RO’D, the answer to your question lies with the people who are in charge.

            Too few politicians are willing to challenge the status quo. Even before social media became prevalent. They understood then and even more so now, that rational discussions between adults will be shouted down by “the masses”. Even if the masses are actually a very small minority.

            It will take a group of politicians who are more interested in effecting change than getting re-elected. It will take people with the courage to continue to discuss solutions to long term problems while the whiners whine. While the media sells click bait. While those with a beneficial interest in the status quo present an endless list of hurdles and constraints.

            In short, it will take not one, but many states(wo)men. And that is something that we have not seen for decades in Canada.

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:

            Ron,

            Thanks.

  22. Lawrence Barry says:

    Hey WK – hope all is well but give the bike a rest for a couple months – all the best from where we do ride in the winter – in Fernie BC – but it’s not like back your way on glare ice.

  23. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Wayne,

    I’m not convinced this is the way to go but politicians have no spine to begin with. So…the moment the CAQ dives in the polls, which I suspect they may, Legault will drop this in a New York minute. Mr. Tough Guy will become Mr. Poll Guy.

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