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Cape Breton Post - - OUR COMMUNITY -

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.

The Cana­dian Press

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.

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