It is hard to argue with International Trade Minister Ed Fast’s assertion that raising taxes at the border just increases costs for consumers at a time when international travel is already down. The last thing travellers need now is another barrier.
We have to wonder, however, why politicians from all parties in Ottawa are objecting so loudly to a new fee from the United States while ignoring the higher costs that are imposed on Canadian travellers by our own governments.
Fast was reacting to a $5.50 document inspection fee that Canadians will now be charged when they enter the U.S. by sea or by air.
The new charge will be applied because an exemption that we have enjoyed along with Mexico since 1997 was eliminated by Congress as a deficit reduction measure. The new fee is expected to raise about $90 million a year from Canadian travellers.
Fast said Canadian officials have raised objections to the new fee “at the highest level” in the U.S.
That will no doubt play well here, even though at a time Congress is wrestling with a trillion-dollar deficit, our protests won’t mean much in Washington.
And if we step back a little, it’s not clear why they should. Why should American politicians back off a cost-recovery fee when Canadians pay much higher fees for travel as a result of tariffs charged by our own governments than we do as a result of fees charged by the Americans?
We are charged a security fee that Ottawa increased earlier this year to as much as $15 for domestic flights and up to $25 for flights to the U.S.
Most airports charge Airport Improvement Fees of up to $25. From YVR, the improvement fee is $5 for flights within B.C. and $15 for people leaving the province.
There is a Nav Canada fee of up to $40 per round trip. Our ticket prices also reflect the landing fees airlines are charged that are boosted by the exorbitant rent Ottawa charges local airport authorities.
To cap all that off, British Columbians pay the harmonized sales tax, an additional 12 per cent on top of everything else.
As Canadian travellers have long since discovered, the published price of air travel rarely reflects the final costs. For a family, the fees add hundreds of dollars to the price of a voyage.
The U.S. also imposes a raft of fees, but collectively they are still so far below the costs imposed here that thousands of Canadians are driving across the border to catch lower-priced flights at American airports.
A survey earlier this year found that one in five Canadians heading for American destinations started the journey at an American airport.
If anything, the new American fee will only encourage that trend, since it isn’t applied to Canadians who enter the U.S. by vehicle.
So by all means, the federal government should talk to the U.S. about lowering barriers to travel that benefits both countries.
But if they are serious — as they should be — about encouraging air travel, they should look first in our own back yard.
Vancouver Sun editorial October 25, 2011
Tue, Oct 25 2011 10:15 PM
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