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OTTAWA (CP) — Air travellers are facing an April Fool’s Day surprise that’s no joke.
The federal government is set to raise the airport security tax on April 1 — subject to parliamentary approval — to cover the cost of full-body screening and other new security measures.
Transport Minister John Baird announced Thursday that the government will put up $1.5 billion over the next five years to tighten security.
To cover that, air security fees will rise by $2.50 for a one-way flight in Canada, by $4.37 for transborder flights, and by $8.91 for international routes. The fees currently range from $5 to $16 a ticket, depending on the destination.
Baird played down the increase, saying it’s not much more than the cost of an inflight pillow or a headset.
The announcement came after the government said next week’s budget wouldn’t raise taxes. Baird said the security charge is a user fee, not a tax.
NDP deputy leader Thomas Mulcair begged to differ.
“A tax is a tax is a tax,” he said in an interview. “ They’re trying to jazz it up as something other than what it is. It’s a simple tax.”
Mulcair said the measure comes at a bad time for struggling companies.
“ The government’s making it harder and harder for the airlines and the tourism industries to do business.”
The Liberals also criticized the Tories for raising the tax, especially while Parliament was on a break.
The government announced recently that it will spend $11 million to install 44 airport scanners that can see through trav- ellers’ clothes.
And the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority — the federal agency responsible for keeping air travel safe — is bringing in a new behavioural observation program to look for suspicious travellers. It will spend millions to train people in the techniques.
Baird also announced a full review into the security agency itself. The study will look at CATSA’s spending, efficiency and structure.
Baird blamed the failed Christmas terror plot on a U.S.-bound airliner for increased security needs.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, John Baird points to a member of the media at the Ottawa Airport in Ottawa, Thursday. Baird announced a hike in airport fees to match the demand in security costs.