U.S. border fee a slap
Canadians have cause to be upset over a new $5.50 tax to enter the United States — a fee that Canada has long been exempted from paying. The cash-strapped U.S. government plans on removing the exemption within days. The fee will be charged to all travellers arriving from Canada by air and boat. Only Canadians who drive to the U.S. will avoid the charge.
Financial crisis or no financial crisis, this nickel-anddiming of Canadians is damaging the relationship with our biggest trading partner. Along with initiatives such as Buy American, protectionist moves undermine free trade and a privileged relationship between neighbours.
U.S. ambassador David Jacobson told Canadians not to take it personally. The U.S. is simply applying the same rules to Canada as it applies to every other country, whose citizens already pay to enter the U.S. by sea or air.
For Canadians, it feels like being turned upside down and shaken for loose change. And that’s about all the levy is expected to collect, or about $100 million annually; a pittance in relation to the $1-trillion deficit facing the U.S.
The exemption was brought into effect in 1997 as a provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The surcharge is just one more item on a growing list of grievances, including an IRS tax crackdown on dual Canadian-american citizens and green-card holders living here. Washington’s new Buy American provisions — which direct U.S. stimulus funds to American companies — have also left a bad taste in Canada.
It’s not like an extra $5.50 will stop anyone from flying to the U.S., but Canadians might think twice about spending their holidays in America if they continue to receive a message that they are not welcome there. The fee is also one more charge in a raft of tariffs, including a security fee the federal government raised to as much as $25 this year on flights to the U.S.
They all add up, and are enough to make fee-weary Canadians want to crawl under the sheets and stay home.