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U.S. Border Fee 'loopiest' Idea Says MP - Apr. 24, 2013

Story by Barb Rayner - Saint Croix Courier

Washington, D.C. --- The proposal by the Department of Homeland Security to charge every vehicle and pedestrian entering the U.S. a fee is one of the "loopiest" ideas he has heard in a long time, said New Brunswick Southwest MP John Williamson.

"It will certainly do a lot of damage to border communities, will hit Canadians in the wallet and Americans who are coming across and for border communities, like St. Stephen, it would be just a terrible change," said the MP Monday.

"I am very pleased to see the government is taking a firm stance on it and will fight this at the highest level in Washington. I am in Washington with the Foreign Affairs Committee, which I sit on, and tomorrow will be meeting with Congressional leaders in Congress. I will be raising it every chance I get to let our American friends know what an awful idea this is."

Williamson said he realizes that the U.S. has an awful budget deficit but this is not the solution that government members should be considering given the long-standing ties between Canada and the U.S.

"This is what happens when a government spends too much money and they look at any solution to raise revenue. This is the same thinking that has them going after dual nationals.

"This is all about the shakedown of the ordinary hard working citizen in order to raise money and we need to vigorously oppose this. We have seen numerous trade deals with the Americans to ensure goods and services cross the border duty free because we realize this is good for the economy of both countries – and people should be allowed to cross that border freely."

Homeland Security is only looking to study this proposal at this point, said Williamson, but the Canadian government doesn’t want to wait until it is an actual policy to say something about it. He also said he was “sure” Canadian Opposition parties would support the government and provide a unified voice against any such changes.

"We are here in Washington speaking with our colleagues in Congress and we have a meeting with our ambassador and this is going to be talked about."

The unique thing about this part of the world, said Williamson, is the long standing blood ties between Washington County and Charlotte County. People have friends and family on both side of the border.

"This would be devastation to Campobello residents. Imagine you are told you have to pay a fee to use the road system through Maine in order to cross the border back into Canada. This is what happens when people put in policies without thinking about the impact it will have on people on the islands."

He called the proposal a tariff.

"We know free trade has benefitted Canada and North America. It has created jobs and to put a tax on border crossing is just a terrible solution to the U.S. budget problem."

Such a measure would have a negative effect on both sides of the border, said Williamson.

"It will certainly have an effect on an area like ours that relies on tourism."

The Canadian government has to keep on this issue and register its strongest disapproval, he stated.