Canadian citizens shouldn’t have to help fix American budget mess

What’s $5.50 between friends, right? Old Uncle Sam’s piggy bank has been collecting dust and now it’s decided it wants a hand out, well I say hard cheese. My benevolence only goes so far.

Just after getting together for a cozy photo-op in Washington with Stephen Harper over their recently signed “perimeter security” agreement, President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decided to drop border bomb part deux on unsuspecting Canadian travellers. Word on the street is that the 2012 US budget will re-implement a $5.50 passenger inspection fee on Canadian travellers flying into the United States. This fee hasn’t been enforced since 1997, so I guess the U.S. Treasury is getting desperate.

As with most fees, it’s not about the money – it’s about the principle. That $5.50 will most likely be engulfed within the massive taxes we already pay on airfare. The real question is why should we help pay down the U.S. debt? I didn’t know that when President Obama said that Americans should “live within their means” that meant both their means and ours. Of course for those who learned of this proposal the anti-American blinders quickly turned on and many were up-in-arms for our own inspection fee.

When the smoke clears, hopefully this proposal dies on a policy table. Is the estimated $100 million in supposed revenue from this fee (considering an average of 15-20 million Canadian passengers into the U.S. annually) worth it in the long run? U.S. debt now has more zeroes than my old report cards, so what difference would $100 million really make? I know that sounds odd to hear, but think about it. It’s bad for business for both sides. What’s going to happen is that more people will do what a lot of Canadians already do: drive down to Buffalo or Detroit to fly to their desired U.S. destination. Canadians already make up 75 per cent of the cross-border flow between the two countries and this number might be going up.

It’s not just on airfare this little fee would pertain to either. Any maritime travel from Canada to the U.S. (even including ferry service) will also fall under the $5.50 umbrella. I wonder if President Obama and the DHS thought what maritime travel fees would do to so many New England locales that maintain and function due to so much eastern Canadian tourism money. This fee could obviously hurt just as much as it is intended to help.

The real question is when will enough be enough? They’ve already made us get passports to cross the border, what’s to stop them from implementing new border fees for those travelling by car or bus or even visitor visas upon entry? Sounds crazy, but who knows what lengths the U.S. government will go to for new revenue streams, especially if they can’t figure out better ways to pay down their $14 trillion debt. Worse, maybe they will even consider lowering the declaration limit for Duty Free goods. All I know is if that happened and Canadians couldn’t get their cheap booze and smokes there will be no diplomatic discussions or debates only hell to pay.