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Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference in Montreal on Dec. 30, 2021.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

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Quebec goes first

Re Quebec To Impose Tax On The Unvaccinated (Jan. 12): Brilliant. I love it.

Dale Mills Guelph, Ont.

Re Quebec’s Unvaxxed Tax Sounds Good, But Is Nothing But Punitive And Unhelpful (Jan. 12): Thanks to columnist André Picard for clarifying why Quebec’s “tax” isn’t the way to proceed. Coupled with his intelligent take on vaccine mandates in an earlier column (Vaccine Mandates Need To Have Teeth – Aug. 24, 2021), it has given my thinking a needed tweak.

I initially cheered this initiative because of my frustration with refuseniks. I won’t applaud François Legault. But in the absence of effective vaccine mandates, supporting a tax for the unvaccinated still emits a siren call.

J.C. Sulzenko Ottawa

We don’t hesitate to use financial penalties (escalating insurance premiums and fines) to deter irresponsible drivers whose behaviour may endanger the lives of others. So why are we hesitating to do the same with the intentionally unvaccinated?

Andreas Souvaliotis Toronto

Taxing those who are not vaccinated would result in a population who can afford to pay the tax, and therefore may never get vaccinated. It would also hurt those who cannot afford the tax and are not vaccinated for whatever reason.

Taxes are not always the magic and convenient answer. This sort of measure would also open the door to taxing other health areas which are presently exempt from taxation.

Douglas Cornish Ottawa

Applying a tax for high-risk behaviours is akin to increased premiums under private health insurance. Can a “universal” health care system equitably account for such increased costs?

Other signs of a potential implosion of Quebec’s universal system can be seen in Chaoulli v. Quebec (AG), a 2005 Supreme Court ruling that legislation prohibiting private medical insurance in the face of long wait times violated the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Meanwhile, a recent ruling in British Columbia finds a different balancing of the security of the individual in favour of a single-payer system (B.C. Court Rules Against Private Health Care – Sept., 11, 2020). These developments highlight that a discussion about how much suffering individuals should tolerate for this current system – free of histrionics about a slippery slope to “American-style” health care – seems long overdue in Canada.

Pheroze Jeejeebhoy CS, civil litigation; Hamilton

Trust issues

Re What Does The West Want In Ukraine? (Editorial, Jan. 12): The Globe and Mail’s editorial suggests that the path to Russia standing down from its actions threatening Ukraine is to accept that Ukraine should eschew NATO membership and commit to military neutrality, in exchange for Russia respecting its independence and borders.

How could Russia be counted on to honour such a commitment when it violated the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances? In exchange for Ukraine handing back to Russia a nuclear arsenal left on its soil after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia agreed to recognize Ukraine’s independence and its borders.

We know how that movie ended – its sequel will not be cinema fantasy, but the likely loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and the extinguishing of democracy in a former Soviet “colony.”

George Horhota JD; official Canadian observer, 2019 Ukrainian presidential election; Toronto

Come together

Re There May Be An Answer To The Housing Crisis – Let Cities Sprawl (Jan. 10): New Canadians often live in intergenerational arrangements in their home countries, but they are hard-pressed to find similar housing options in Canada.

Co-housing enables better sharing of costs and care. Unfortunately, intergenerational families often face a range of obstacles in communities that require single-family dwellings only, along with the associated high costs.

It’s surprising to me that more private developers, architects and urban planners have not recognized the sizable and growing market for these alternatives. Instead of urban sprawl, we should incentivize the development of creative and affordable living choices.

Sherri Torjman Toronto

Why not let cities sprawl up? Expansion outside existing urban areas requires a tremendous amount of new infrastructure, the full cost of which is not always reflected in development charges.

As Ottawa has recently found, allowing development on undeveloped land often costs municipalities money, while infill development results in a gain. By allowing even more sprawl, the government would also be forcing people in urban areas to subsidize new low-density homes.

While many families do want a detached suburban house with a backyard, there are even more who are perfectly content living in apartments. Instead of artificially restricting supply with only single-family detached homes on the vast majority of land, governments should let market forces dictate supply, and allow low- and mid-rise buildings to be built if that’s what it wants.

Anthony Liu Toronto

Bank it

Re Bank Regulator Mulls Higher Capital Requirements For Banks As Cushion Against Climate Change Risks (Jan 11): It’s good to see Canada’s bank regulator slowly, tentatively, begin to catch up with other jurisdictions to address climate risk. But I find it is still overly focused on protecting banks from the climate, rather than protecting the climate from banks.

In addition to requiring larger buffers for financial stability, regulators should demand higher capital requirements against fossil-fuel financing. Without this, banks will likely continue to undermine the stability of the financial system – and indeed, the planet – because regulators make it profitable to do so.

Matt Price Investors for Paris Compliance; Duncan, B.C.

Some questions

Re Canada Needs To Invest In Tutoring For Students Falling Behind (Jan. 4): Being a deputy minister of education in British Columbia taught me that seemingly simple solutions to complex problems, such as proposing that the federal government fund tutoring to address learning losses caused by COVID-19, are not as simple as they first appear.

How will school districts, already facing recruitment and retention challenges and daily teacher absences, provide the support that tutors will need? Will teacher and support-staff unions say that tutors are performing work prohibited by their contracts with employers?

Will tutors undergo background checks and meet minimum standards as required of teachers? What assurance will parents have that the provision of tutoring does not absolve school systems from obligations to educate their children?

These questions and others should be addressed to ensure that a well-intentioned proposal can fulfill its intended purpose.

Charles Ungerleider Professor emeritus, educational studies, University of British Columbia; Vancouver

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