The budget proposes a $5.50 fee for any traveler entering the United States by air or by sea. This would include citizens of Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Since 1997, these countries have been exempt from such tariffs, a privilege extended to America’s closest neighbours.
The proposed traveler’s tax is being called a ‘passenger inspection fee’ and is to be used to offset the costs of increasingly elaborate airport screenings. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security anticipates the proposed fee will provide a $110 million cash cow to the country, per annum. That sounds like a lot, until you consider that the current U.S. budget deficit sits at a staggering $1.65 trillion.
Canadian Prime Minister, Steven Harper sees the fee as an obvious attempt to increase the nation’s coffers without angering American voters.
“I think it’s clear that the U.S. government is casting around for ways to raise revenue,” Harper has been quoted as saying. But, he has misgivings about the impact the fee may have on economic recovery.
“This is not a useful way to do that,” the Prime Minister said. “We want to ensure trade and travel between our two countries is easier, not more difficult, and we don’t need additional taxes on that kind of economic activity.”
Susan Bonner, a political journalist for the CBC, hesitates to place too much significance on the proposed budget stating that it is, “a first step.”
“Whatever comes out at the end of the budget-making process is often very, very different from how it starts,” Bronner said; acknowledging that it is entirely possible that the inspection fee will be scratched before the budget process is over.
There will certainly be political pressure to scrap the fee, in light of recent meetings between the governments of Canada and the United States, with the express purpose of simplifying border crossings and potentially establishing a national security perimeter. A new tariff would certainly be a point of contention in those talks.
That being said, Canadians are very used to swallowing new taxes, particularly those disguised as ‘fees’. In the grand scheme of travel costs, what’s an extra $5.50 among friends?
Allison Wallace, a spokesperson for Flight Centre believes the fee won’t hamper travel to any discernable degree. “Given the proximity of the U.S. to Canada and how many Canadians go there every year, the number of people that won’t travel there because of the fee will likely be insignificant.”
That may be true but we’ll make a pouty face while we pay it. – Jen R, Staff Writer
photo VIA Bridgeandtunnelclub.com