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Life as Performance Art

“Vax or Tax” is an idea be-ing seriously considered in the Quebec Provincial Legis-lature and picking up trac-tion elsewhere.
The basic premise is people who refuse to receive the full dose of the Covid-19 vac-cination are far more likely to become ill and need hos-pitalization than those who do. Even if they do not end up in the hospital, they use more healthcare services, must take additional time off work which weakens the economy, and need support from others who must take care of them.
The bills are adding up and a growing number of provin-cial legislators claim the anti-vaxxers are costing eve-ryone a tremendous amount of money. Sooner or later, the bill must be paid.
As stands that sum is passed on to other resi-dents and may mean the government must make cut-backs in other areas. Consid-ering the size of the healthcare costs, one legisla-tor said his grandchildren and maybe great-grandchildren will be paying for decades, assuming the virus doesn’t morph into something even more dead-ly.
In U.S. and elsewhere gov-ernments have tried to entice people to receive the vaccine with incentives. It is the car-rot that offers them guaran-teed paid time off from work to get the vaccine, gift cards, even entering their name into a lottery, with the lucky winners receiving a check of six or seven figures.
Michigan offered a draw-ing early in 2021in hopes more people would get their injections. The incentive was less successful than ex-pected.
One couple, asked if they were going to get the vac-cine in return for a gift card for gas or other purchases, replied they would not sell their freedom for any amount of money. Apparently they are not alone, which is the rationale behind this pro-posal in Quebec.
The Canadian legislator who sponsored the bill ex-plained that because tobacco use raises healthcare costs, smokers are taxed at the point of purchase. The same principle applies to alco-hol. It is admittedly a repres-sive tax that says, “If you are going to use these products or engage in these behaviors, then you are going to be taxed.”
For a while a soda pop tax was used in several states to encourage consumers to re-duce their intake of highly-sugared drinks. It brought in additional revenues for the states but ultimately was stopped by the courts be-cause it limited freedom of choice.
Critics in Quebec claim “Vax or Tax” is unfair. Oth-ers complain it is social en-gineering.
Like it or not, a repressive “sin tax” does bring about changes, and to a certain extent that can be considered social engineering. Each time the tax is raised on to-bacco or alcohol, or when it was attempted on sugary-laden drinks, a noticeable percentage of people weaned themselves off these prod-ucts. Those who supported these measures said that not only was more money raised to pay medical expenses, but it helped support healthy lifestyles.
The provincial legislator noted Quebec mandates li-censes to fish, hunt, for mo-tor vehicles, bicycles, boats, trailers and more. Only peo-ple who are users pay these license fees. Others argued a license fee and an openly repressive “Vax or Tax” ini-tiative are very different.
He justifies this tax be-cause more than 90 percent of Covid patients in inten-sive care units have not re-ceived the full dose vaccine and contends there’s been plenty of opportunity for all to be vaccinated. Those who have turned down the oppor-tunity should pay at least a part of the cost of their healthcare.To make it more equitable, all who have not been vaccinated will be taxed, hospitalized or not.
Suffice to note this is not a universally popular idea, with strong reactions on both sides.
Those who want to see the spread of the virus end, protect their and their families’ lives and care about others have been quick to get their vaccine and support this idea. They are eager for others to do what they con-sider to be the right thing.
Conversely, those who are philosophically, political-ly or religiously opposed to the vaccine say the proposed legislation is unfair, gov-ernment is depriving indi-viduals of their freedoms and “stealing” their money. It is socialism, they cry.
Time will tell whether this proposal is signed into law in Quebec, then spreads to the rest of the country.
Students of civics or politi-cal science understand it’s a slow process to take an idea, make it into a law, then en-force it. There are constant challenges and pitfalls along the way, and even if a law makes it to the chief execu-tive’s desk and is signed, often there are appeals to courts. Little wonder chief executives resort to using their emergency powers to circumvent a time-consuming process.
Often, however, the mere threat of a very expensive and repressive law is suffi-cient to change behav-ior. The threat of a large tax increase for tobacco or alco-hol leads people to plan to stop using these prod-ucts. Perhaps the Quebec legislator is hoping the threat of this new law will be enough to persuade people to get the vaccine.
Will this law cross the bor-der to the U.S.? That remains to be seen.

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