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New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks at a news conference in Ottawa on Dec. 8, 2021.BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said on Tuesday he believes Quebec’s proposal to apply a tax to those who are unvaccinated would undermine the universality of the health care system.

Mr. Singh, who spoke to reporters before three days of virtual caucus meetings, said it is concerning to make people pay because of their health care choices.

The NDP Leader said he supports encouraging people to be vaccinated, and vaccination mandates for people such as employees of the federal public service.

“It saves the individual and it also helps stop the spread, so saves the lives of others and family members,” he said.

But Mr. Singh added that he is worried the idea of requiring someone to pay amounts to a breakdown of universality in the health care system.

“We all contribute and pay taxes so that we can all have access to health care when we need it,” he said.

“This particular measure seems to be eroding the universality, and that, to me as a New Democrat who believes firmly in a system that’s there for everyone when they need it, is something that I am concerned about.”

Last week, Quebec Premier François Legault said the province would impose a tax on those who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 to offset their disproportionate cost to the health care system and encourage more people to get their shots.

Mr. Legault cited intensive-care hospitalizations in Quebec as the driver for the levy. He also said unvaccinated Quebeckers make up only 10 per cent of the province’s adult population, but about half of those admitted to ICUs with the disease.

“It’s a question of equity,” he said. “Right now, these people put a very important burden on our health care network. I think it’s normal that the majority of the population are asking that there be a consequence.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to comment on Quebec’s proposed tax when it was unveiled, and said more information is required.

“The details are important,” he said. “We need to know exactly the measures being put in place, and there’s work to be done on that.”

Mr. Trudeau said the federal government needs to understand how the Quebec proposal would work so that Ottawa can be assured it is “effective, that it’s doing the right thing and that it’s in line with our values.”

Mr. Singh said on Tuesday that Canada’s health care system in many provinces is “at its brink” and has been in this state many times throughout the pandemic. He also said COVID-19 has exposed this fragility.

The NDP has called for the federal government to ensure continuing, stable funding through an increase to the Canada Health Transfer (CHT).

Ottawa provides these payments to finance health care, and to support principles of the Canada Health Act, including accessibility.

In December, 2011, the former Conservative government announced that CHT cash levels would grow at 6 per cent until 2016-17.

Beginning in 2017-18, the total health transfers have grown in line with a three-year moving average of nominal gross domestic product, with a guaranteed increase of at least 3 per cent annually.

The premiers have asked Ottawa to increase its contribution to health care costs to 35 per cent from 22 per cent, which would amount to about $28-billion more this year.

Mr. Trudeau has said he will engage in a discussion on the issue after the pandemic is over. Mr. Singh said “this is not good enough.”

“It has to be something that we deal with now,” he said.

With reports from Eric-Andrew Gee in Montreal and Marieke Walsh in Ottawa

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