The Herald Bulletin

June 6, 2013

Editorial: Keep the Canadians crossing the border for free


The Herald Bulletin

---- — Canadians bring a lot of business to the United States, according to a recent Associated Press article. So it would seem that the U.S. should do everything it can to keep Canadians, and their money, coming. That’s what it would seem.

Alas, the Department of Homeland Security has proposed a fee for Canadians crossing the border to shop. This would successfully keep many Canadians, and their money, home. Even if the fee wasn’t too high, many Canadians would probably decide not to pay it out of principle.

According to the AP story, gas is higher in Canada, as is beer and wine, and even staples like milk. Canadians can drive over the border, get what they need and go back, leaving the communities they shop in — such as Whatcom County, Wash., where the article takes place — much richer.

In this day and age of shrinking government budgets, Canadian dollars can really boost a local economy. The article notes that the town of Blaine, Wash., generates $255,000 from a penny per gallon gas tax, which is about 30 percent of the town’s street maintenance budget.

Granted, this is a boost to local economies so why should we care in Indiana? Whatcom County probably won’t need to be begging for federal grants for maintenance if it has plenty of money on its own, leaving money for interior communities that won’t benefit from an influx of Canadians..

Homeland Security wants the fee to increase funding for border patrols. Like most federal agencies, the department has been touched by the sequester, though lawmakers didn’t take much away from Homeland Security.

Currently there is no fee to enter the U.S. by land. There is a $2 fee entering by boat or airplane, and that fee is included in the ticket.

Lawmakers in the northern states are aghast at the fee proposal and are vowing to defeat it. Some, such as Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont, are going even further by sponsoring an amendment to the immigration reform bill that would prevent Homeland Security from even studying the economic consequences of a fee.

Despite all this, it’s sort of a slap in the face to our northern neighbors. Canada has always been a local ally to the U.S. and travel between the two countries has always been open and robust. There has got to be a better way to raise money for Homeland Security.

The AP reports that the proposal is probably dead for 2014 but could roar back due to expensive border security measures implemented since Sept. 11, 2001. The fee should be a last resort so as to keep the economic engine humming along the north border and not take advantage of our Canadian neighbors.

In summary Canada has always been a local ally to the U.S. and travel between the two countries has always been open and robust.