Friday Focus January 14th: Risk and Responsibility

It’s all on you, Alberta.

COVID-19 remains top of mind for Albertans this week. On the other hand, Premier Kenney seems to be trying to sidestep the issue. A new public health order was announced this week that lets employers decide which workers infected with COVID-19 must go back to work. In doing so, the government has abdicated all responsibility on this matter. 

I admit it is difficult to identify precisely all categories of essential workers and even which services are critical. However, the government has a role to play here. It’s their job to make these decisions. At a minimum, the UCP government could create an application process or a review process. Or create more detailed guidelines that it could modify as needed. Instead, they’ve completely waived making any of these critical decisions in the middle of a pandemic. In doing so, the UCP has opened the door to unsafe work conditions that most likely will worsen the spread of COVID-19. 

An un-vaxxed tax?

This week, Quebec Premier François Legault sparked a national conversation with his controversial proposal to make unvaccinated Quebecers pay a provincial healthcare tax. His rationale is that the unvaccinated are not simply putting themselves at risk but putting a significant and unnecessary burden on the public healthcare system. The tax would merely have them pay a portion of their behaviour's extra additional costs to the healthcare system. 

The rationale behind this move is clear. The unvaccinated are putting additional and unnecessary strain on healthcare resources, so there is a logic to making them pay extra. I agree with the spirit of doing more to address the disproportionate role the unvaccinated play in this health crisis. There is also some precedent for this. We tax unhealthy products such as alcohol and tobacco at a higher rate to offset what they cost society and discourage their use. 

That being said, I’m not 100% sold. There is a lot to consider. For example, is it okay to tax an unvaccinated individual who follows all protocols and not a vaccinated individual who ignores health protocols? Are there better ways to accomplish what this policy seeks to do? Does this undermine the universality of our healthcare system? I’ll be exploring these valid questions as I examine this policy in more detail. 

Speaking of which. I’d love to hear from you on this issue. You can reach me at [email protected] about this or any other issue you’re concerned about. I’m always ready to listen. So please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Stay safe and stay warm, Alberta.