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What if we gave healthcare workers a tax pass?

Jody Vance: Instead of “punish the selfish” let’s instead try “reward the selfless.”
(Steve Jolicoeur/shutterstock)

I have an idea.

Brace yourself, it’s a bit radical, even for me. Perhaps borne of my sometimes cartoon simple point of view, I call it my Bugs Bunny idea for two reasons: it’s all carrot no stick; and because it’s so crazy, it just might work.

By now, you’ve heard about Quebec Premier François Legault’s idea to tax those who refuse a COVID-19 vaccine.

I propose the polar opposite.

My idea is to instead offer tangible and immediate relief to those tirelessly caring for them and all Canadians in need of medical attention.

Take a pass on taxing the anti-vaxx and instead offer an immediate tax break for all full and part-time public healthcare workers during the pandemic.

Anyone helping keep our precariously perched hospitals, acute care centres, and long term care homes – they’ve been going through this nightmare, and deserve relief that goes beyond gratitude. Lip service just ain’t cuttin’ it.

The level of stress and exhaustion is almost impossible to imagine who walk through hospital doors, day-in-and-day-out, committed to caring for all Canadians. They are better people than me. Just thinking of the weight of their burden brings humility.

I’ve spoken to some about 100-hour work weeks. That’s two and a half regular work weeks. Or even more.

It’s hard to stomach. Because even when it’s over, it won’t be over. Think of the countless postponed surgeries and procedures piling up, and how those delayed cases will eventually need these heroic people to carry on at top speed.

Things can’t continue as they are. Today’s urgent problem is still preventing collapse of services – but tomorrow, retention will become the long-term danger.

Meaningful relief must arrive, and soon.

As pie-in-the-sky as this Middle’s cartoon crazy idea might seem, imagine the impact if suddenly, with no hoops or red tape, anyone in healthcare suddenly got to keep their whole cheque? Being exempt from income tax is a surefire shot in the arm.

Imagine how far that would go toward workforce retention, stabilization, and even recruitment, at a time when many in healthcare are looking to exit stage left.

These incredible heroes deserve all the praise and support offered by leaders. And to be sure, long-overdue levers are being pulled, like the promise to add seats in nursing schools or opening up the possibility of acknowledging foreign certification. These are both excellent ideas, but the timeline of the benefits they will bring does nothing for the current and emerging crises. We’re now headed into a third year of the entire healthcare sector being dangerously overworked and underpaid; something needs to give.

So, like my guy Bugs I’m throwing down a crazy idea to give everyone a raise…by way of a pass this tax season.

Put simply, it’s a conscious pivot from “punish the selfish” to “reward the selfless.” Because they deserve it, because we need them, and because we need to encourage more people to follow them.

Just an idea, Doc. No doubt, there will be naysayers with all sorts of reasons why this can’t or wouldn’t fly — but as far as I see it, no idea is too crazy to float.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.