Like The Hub?
Join our community.

Guns, crawfish and a rip around Talladega. Here’s how vaccines pay off for a lucky few


Get a jab and it could be all yours.

But only for Canadians who live in Alberta or Manitoba, of course. Premier Jason Kenney announced on Saturday that the province will be instituting an “Open for Summer” lottery with three top prizes worth $1 million each as a way to motivate more Albertans to get their vaccines. Additional non-cash prizes include 40 travel-related giveaways. 

Kenney said at a press conference on Monday that these incentives are necessary to reach those who are hesitant but still persuadable. 

“There always will be some who will never get a vaccine of any kind. No fact and no plea to civic responsibility will sway them. But we also know that there are lots of people who want to get vaccinated or are thinking hard about it but they just haven’t taken the plunge yet,” said Kenney.

“We really need to push hard to encourage the 15 percent who want to get vaccinated or are open to it but have not yet gotten around to it,” he said.

To date, the only other province to provide similar incentives is Manitoba, who led the way in Canada on this initiative by being the first province to implement a vaccine lottery. Vaccinated Manitobans will be entered into a lottery that will award nearly $2 million in cash and scholarships, the province announced on June 9. 

So far, Canada’s incentives have been comparatively muted, though, with the biggest draws being cold, boring cash (outside of the free lifesaving vaccine, of course).

For more creative prizes we naturally have to look to our southern neighbours. 

A smorgasboard of American vaccine prizes

While many American states are implementing cash lotteries and scholarship opportunities as well, many more varied and locally unique prizes can be found in jurisdictions across the country.

Here are ten of the most inventive incentives:

  1. The Devil’s Lettuce in Washington state: Fully interested in playing to stereotype, the state is enabling state-licensed dispensaries to give qualifying customers one pre-rolled joint at an in-store vaccination clinic through its “Joints for Jabs” program.
  1. Guns in West Virginia: Got some skeets that won’t shoot themselves? West Virginia has you covered. Five hunting rifles and five custom shotguns were available as winnings in that state’s lottery giveaway.
  1. Crawfish in New Orleans: COVID or crawfish? The city banked on that being an easy choice, as a local business incubator partnered with a seafood market to give away one pound of crawfish for the price of one shot at an event in May.
  1. A rip around the world’s most famous racetrack in Alabama: Time to get your Ricky Bobby on. A mass testing and vaccination event in May gave Alabamans aged 16 and over the opportunity to take two laps around the Talladega Superspeedway. A needle was not required for participation, as the offer extended even to those who only got a COVID-19 test.
  1. Mascot merch in Philadelphia: Yes, the “Philly Vax Sweepstakes” included 400,000 dollars in cash, but surely the city’s most coveted prizes came from the Philadelphia Flyers: as part of their “Take Your Shot” campaign the team partnered with Penn Medicine to give out immunizations at a playoff game with incentives including vouchers for game tickets and, most alluringly, Gritty themed t-shirts and stickers.
  1. Festival tickets in Chicago: The best way to break from more than a year of social distancing is to be jam-packed limb to sweaty limb with beer-spilling strangers as indiscernibly loud beats blow out your eardrums. Just like the good ol’ days. Chicago is set to give out 1,200 passes to the Lollapalooza music festival at a mass vaccination event on June 26.
  1. Tacos in California: Along with discounted sports merch, dream vacations and cash totaling an eyebrow-raising 116.5 million dollars in prizes, California has also partnered with Taco Bell and Chipotle for a free taco and some queso blanco with proof of vaccination at each respective establishment. 
  1. The full big city experience in New York: Governor’s Ball passes, MetroCards, staycation packages and baseball, Broadway and concert tickets are all on offer in New York state. 
  1. Love, anywhere in America: The White House announced in May that it had partnered with dating apps Tinder, Hinge, OKCupid, BLK, Chispa, Plenty of Fish, Match, Bumble, and Badoo to give vaccinated users access to premium content such as boosts, super likes and super swipes. Perhaps the aim here is to tackle two problems in one.
  1. Calories, also anywhere in America: If you’re an American who super strikes out on all of your super swipes, no worries, you can just eat and drink your sorrows away — many businesses have joined in the cause to get every American vaccinated by any means necessary, with Krispy Kreme making perhaps the biggest initial splash when they offered a free donut to every inoculated individual in the country. Anheuser-Busch, meanwhile, has partnered with the White House for the biggest beer giveaway in history — the company will provide a free beer to every American if the country reaches a 70 percent vaccination rate by July 4. 

But will any of this actually work? 

Can the lure of lottery cash and incentives inject enough enthusiasm to motivate the still-hesitant to line up for their shot? Or are these simply substance-less stunts that miss the point entirely, as some have criticized, including Robert Oxoby, the head of the University of Calgary’s economics department.

“You can’t change preferences with money. There’s years of evidence that you can’t do it,” he told the Calgary Herald.

University of Calgary associate professor and economist Trevor Tombe presented a different view, commenting on Twitter:

“Some reject that incentives matter. Fair enough, but there are many studies investigating the effect of cash and other incentives to increase vaccine uptake. They increased uptake there. Is this time different? Don’t know. Definitely worth a shot.”

Some initial data suggests they could make a difference. 

A recent YouGov poll showed that nearly half (42 percent) of Americans on-the-fence about vaccines responded favourably to at least one of the eight potential incentives that were on offer in the poll, while at least one incentive mattered to 91 percent of those who were planning on being vaccinated. 

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine revealed on CNN that the state’s vaccination rate had gone up 45 percent two weeks after it’s “Vax-a-Million” lottery was announced, with the biggest jump being in 16- and 17-year olds who’s cohort experienced a 94 percent increase in vaccinations.

As for Alberta? As of June 15, nearly 900,000 Albertans had registered to participate in the lottery. 

Similar enthusiasm is evident elsewhere. United Airlines had over 400,000 entrants and more than 100,000 new sign-ups in the first 48 hours for its MileagePlus “golden ticket” scheme. Krispy Kreme has so far handed out more than 1.5 million donuts.

Whether they move the needle or not, offering incentives seems a no-brainer for participating brands. A Morning Consult poll showed that forty-one percent of U.S. adults said they would feel more favourably about a brand that incentivizes consumers to receive vaccines with offers of free products or services. This amount was 24 percent higher than the 17 percent who said the opposite.

All in all, heading to a Yankees game with a Nacho Cheese Doritos® Locos Taco in one hand and a bucket of crawfish in the other, arm-in-vaccinated-arm with your Tinder date dressed head to toe in Gritty gear? America, that sounds like a fine way to kick-off your post-pandemic life. Time to step our game up, Canada.

Timeline: Residential schools stretch across Canada’s entire history


The discovery last month of the remains of 215 Indigenous children buried haphazardly outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School captured Canada’s attention and once again forced the country to grapple with its long history of residential schools.

And it is a long history. The first boarding schools for Indigenous students were set up in the early 1600s by Catholic missionaries, with limited enrollment. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s before the schools started to proliferate.

Confederation kicked off a new period of growth, with three large new schools built in 1883, and expansion westward bringing new schools along with it.

In general, the schools were miserable places. The buildings were poorly built and maintained, with limited heating in the winter and poor ventilation in the summer. The food was terrible and the staff often completely untrained. One principal at a major residential school asked the ministry for guidance on what his job entailed, only to be told there was no such description.

This lack of supervision and training “created a situation where students were prey to sexual and physical abusers,” according to the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, delivered in 2015. The dates and details in this timeline are mostly drawn from the commission’s 500-page report.

Although the conversation about residential schools sometimes makes the policy sound like ancient history, the last Canadian residential school closed in 1998. Tens of thousands of survivors are still alive and were able to hear the official apology from the Government of Canada, delivered in 2008 by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“We now recognize that, in separating children from their families, we undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children and sowed the seeds for generations to follow, and we apologize for having done this,” said Harper.

This timeline of some of the major events in Canada’s history of residential schools shows the legacy reaching deep into the past and staying with us longer than many realize.

Early 1600s

The first boarding school specfically for Indigenous people was created by Catholic missionaries near the future site of Québec City. By all accounts, the school was a failure, with few children enrolled and with many who did attend fleeing at the first opportunity. Over the next 200 years, other boarding schools were created with similarly poor results.


The Mohawk Institute, on the Grand River, near what is now Brantford, Ontario opened in 1834. This school would remain open until 1970.


Egerton Ryerson, the superintendent of schools for Upper Canada, urged the establishment of residential schools where students would be taught “the English language, arithmetic, elementary geometry” and other topics. The report led to several new Methodist-run schools in southern Ontario in the 1850s, including the Mount Elgin school, which did not close until 1946.


On the day of confederation, Canadian churches operated only a handful of boarding schools with most of them receiving small, per-student grants from the federal government. As settlement moved west, missionaries and schools followed.


The federal Indian Act was adopted in 1876, defining who was an “Indian” and establishing a process for how status could be lost. The mechanisms could be arbritrary, for example, men could lose status by graduating from a university and women could lose it by marrying a man who did not have status.


The federal government announced plans to establish three large residential schools in western Canada. Speaking in the House of Commons, and in his capacity as superintendent-general of Indian Affairs, Sir John A. Macdonald said the plan is that children “should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”


One year later, an annual report from Indian Affairs showed only 27 students at the three schools.


The federal government put in place regulations on attendance at the schools, which would remain voluntary.


The distinction between the government-run “industrial schools” that aimed to teach job skills and the church-run boarding schools had eroded almost entirely by the 1920s. By the end of the decade, the government almost excusively referred to them as “residential schools.” Speaking in 1920, deputy minister of Indian Affairs Duncan Campbell Scott told a parliamentary committee that “our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic.”


An annual report from Indian Affairs counts 80 residential schools in Canada. The first residential school in the Maritimes opened in 1930, with most of the other schools operating in western or northern Canada. A few schools remained in southern Ontario, but the majority of schools in the province were located in northern or northwestern Ontario.


The Indian Act was amended to allow agreements with the provinces and school boards to educate First Nations children in public schools.


Government figures show the number of First Nations students attending “non-Indian” schools (9,479) had surpassed the number living in residential schools (9,471) by 1960. The government estimated that 50 percent of the children in residential schools were there for child-welfare reasons. A spike in the apprehension of First Nations children, referred to as the “Sixties Scoop,” was “in some measure simply a transferring of children from one form of institution, the residential school, to another, the child-welfare agency. The schools were not funded or staffed to function as child-welfare institutions,” reads the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report.


The federal government divided the schools into residences and day schools, in a massive restructuring of the system.


The government’s partnership with the churches ends, sparking school closures that would lead to the shuttering of most schools by the 1980s.


The closure of residential schools throughout the 1970s was accompanied by a dramatic increase in the number of children being taken into the child-welfare system. In 1977, First Nations children accounted for 44 percent of the children in care in Alberta and 51 percent in Saskatchewan.


Between 1995 and 1998, the final seven residential schools were closed.


St. Michael’s Indian Residential Schools, the final band-run school, is closed.


An agreement is struck between the federal government and leaders of the Anglican Church to compensate victims who suffered sexual and physical abuse at Anglican-run schools. The government agreed to pay 70 percent of the total compensation, which would max out at $25 million.


The federal government announces a $2 billion compensation deal for First Nations people who attended residential schools. The package included an initial payout of $10,000, with subsequent payments of $3,000 per year, to the approximately 86,000 eligible people.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologizes on behalf of the Government of Canada to former students of residential schools. “Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country,” said Harper.


Pope Benedict XVI expresses sorrow to the Assembly of First Nations for the abuse suffered at Catholic residential schools, although he stops short of an official apology.


Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission releases a final report, describing the school system as “cultural genocide,” with 95 calls to action and a demand for an apology from the Pope.